Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His Servant?

Archive for November, 2007

A Critique of Youth Ministry

I was a youth pastor for many years – mostly in Canada.  For an excellent critique of youth ministry – I highly recommend the following  article of Christopher Schlecht:   http://www.christianaction.org.za/articles/critiquemodyouthministeries.htm.  I think that he has some very good points.

Personally – I am against separating too much the youth from the rest of the congregation.  It encourages a “perpetual’ immaturity.  The same goes for kids who are not taught to stay in church and listen to the main message.


Professor James Kugel was one of the most popular teachers at Harvard.  When the attendance to his Bible introduction course (often with more than 900 students) finally surpassed another popular course in economics, the Harvard Crimson carried the headline: GOD BEATS MAMMON.   Professor Kugel seems to me like an odd appearance at liberal Harvard.  He is “an Orthodox Jew who found himself “hooked” on modern biblical studies despite the fact, as he said in a recent lecture in Manhattan, that much about those studies seemed calculated “to destroy the whole fabric of traditional Jewish piety.”He recently published a book entitled How to Read the Bible (it has 800 pages and 971 notes) –which I am planning to buy.  The book is reviewed in some depth by Peter Steinfels, and he concludes:“How to Read the Bible” runs through the entire Hebrew Scriptures, matching modern scholarship and ancient interpretation. The journey is fascinating enough to render frustrating the author’s conclusion. Although he admired both approaches, Professor Kugel writes, they are “quite irreconcilable.”

Should we be surprised by this conclusion?

I am definitely NOT surprised.  Frankly – I was always wondering why people who do not believe in the Bible dedicate their lives to its study.  I am still not clear on this issue.

In any case – it seems to me well worth buying this book.  It should be refreshing to read an expert Jewish Orthodox opinion on how to read the Bible.

For the full review see:     http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/15/us/15beliefs.html?ex=1347595200&en=b5cdf96e173034e1&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink   

ETS 2007

Here I am in San Diego after a long flight from Korea and a sleepless night working on my paper…Thank God, baby Isaiah (8 months old) was very very good on the way here.  It is nice being back in San Diego…the place where I did my undergraduate studies (in the 90’s), and brings back some nice memories…playing volleyball more than studying etc :):) Well – I did study for my Bible courses, and it was quite an experience taking classes with David Noel Freedman and Richard E. Friedman.  In fact – I partly owe it to them the fact that I now teach Old Testament.  It was those classes that helped me decide to change my major.  And now – here I am at ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) having a blessed time.  It was nice hearing David Wells, Chris Wright etc…and it was even better seeing some old friends.  More on this in the future…I do not like the connection here.  Of course, it was very nice (and tempting) to buy books at a very discounted price.  I am still working on self-control when it comes to buying books…However, the one book that I recommend for anyone interested in missions, is the book of Chris Wright – The Mission of God.  Even though it has about 600 pages, it seems very well worth reading (I did not finish it). Time with family (my brother and cousin) is also great.  We rarely get to see each other…especially in San Diego, where there is (I believe) the best weather on earth.

Amazing Turnarounds

I read an interesting article by Stanley Fish about two famous scholars (see the link below).  One was raised in an evangelical background, but lost his faith because of the problem of evil and suffering (Bart  Ehrman).  The other case is that of a most famous atheist (Antony Flew- a noted professor of philosophy) who announced in 2004 that after decades of writing essays and books from the vantage point of atheism, he now believes in God. “Changed his mind” is not a casual formulation. Flew wouldn’t call what has happened to him a conversion, for that would suggest something unavailable to analysis. His journey, he tells us, is best viewed as “a pilgrimage of reason,” an extension of his life-long habit of “following the argument no matter where it leads.  They both wrote books about their change of mind.  I understand the anguish and sincere struggle of Ehrman (though I disagree with his conclusions).  And I find Flew’s trip from an atheist to a theist very logical.  Note the following relevant questions by Flew:

“How, he asks, do merely physical and mechanical forces – forces without mind, without consciousness – give rise to the world of purposes, thoughts and moral projects? “How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends [and] self-replication capabilities?””

“In an appendix to the book, Abraham Varghese makes Flew’s point with the aid of an everyday example: “To suggest that the computer ‘understands’ what it is doing is like saying that a power line can meditate on the question of free will and determinism or that the chemicals in a test tube can apply the principle of non-contradiction in solving a problem, or that a DVD player understands and enjoys the music it plays.”

How did purposive behavior of the kind we engage in all the time – understanding, meditating, enjoying -ever emerge from electrons and chemical elements?”

Of course some of these same questions were already asked by F.  Schaffer about 50 years ago.  I still do not see how a materialistic explanation can give reasonable answers to these questions…much less PROVE their answers…

The article with more info and argumentation is found here:


Seeker Sensitive Churches – Willow Creek

For an interesting, but not so surprising news/confession coming from Willow Creek – see the following article: http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=26768

I believe that my former professor David Wells (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0802837131/ref=nosim/bestbookbuys00) pointed out some of the weaknesses of their theology a long time ago (in his book No Place for Truth).  I wonder where the church of Rick Warren fits in this picture.  I am afraid – his church is on the same wavelength…?

(This article was picked up from patratosu).

Rata family

me with my wife and our son Isaiah Christian

The Passion of the Servant

We have searched the Scriptures in the past few weeks to learn more how to be genuine servants of God.  It is clear from the Bible that the main word for service (avad) is also used for worship.  There is certainly an overlap between service and worship in both the Old and the New Testament.  We WERE NOT created by God to SERVE Him as if He needed anything (see Acts 17), and the Son of Man came to SERVE – NOT to be served (Mark 10:45) …God has provided EVERYTHING for Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, therefore their ‘service’ did not in any way ‘help’ God, or provided for him food, a temple etc.  That is what we find in other ancient Near Eastern myths.  The God of the Bible is glorious NOT because He is served, but because He SERVES and provides for us.  Our response to the grace and provisions of God should be OBEDIENCE and WORSHIP through the power and grace that He provides and works in us (Eph 3:20-21; 1 Pt 4:11 etc).  For a true servant simply OBEYS and WORSHIPS the Giver who deserves all honor and praise.  The Bible shows us clearly from the very beginning what is the DUTY of man…and on its last page it reminds us well (see also verse 9): Rev    22:3 – No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  Our worship and service must NOT be brought with a SLAVE MENTALITY.  We are to serve  our Lord as sons.  In this context – we saw last week from Malachi 3:13-18, that a true servant believes that his service is NOT in vain (see also 1 Corinthians 15:58), and serves as a son serves his father.  Tomorrow (Nov 4, 2007) we will continue by looking at the Passion/Attitude of the Servant.  The message will be based on Romans 12:11 (Do not be slothful in zeal, be ferven in spirit, serve the Lord) – and will emphasize the fact that we have to serve with PASSION.  Be fervent in the spirit is better translated; BOILING in the spirit. We are called to “BOIL” for Christ.  In the service that we have entered willingly (after we were ransomed by the grace of Christ) – we are called to serve with our whole heart and with a fervent spirit.  And the FOCUS us the LORD.  John Piper breaks it this way:

1) Serve JESUS Not the Belly (Romans 16:17-18)

2) Serve Jesus Not People (Ephesians 6:6-7) – not as people pleasers.

3) Serve JESUS Not the Law (Romans 7:6)

May our good Lord give us the power and grace to serve Him with JOY – like true sons, and with a fervent spirit, so that His name may be glorified.  Let’s ALL adopt this motto: As to the Lord, and not to men.


The love of Christ makes the lowliest acts sublime. 

An excellent message about TRUE SERVICE – based on Ephesians 6:7, is the message of Spurgeon entitled Our Motto.  You can find it on the net: http://www.gracegems.org/19/CHS_our_motto.htm