This is a very brief update about my new ministry with Training Leaders International: https://trainingleadersinternational.org/.
TLI is a ministry that provides theological education to people who do not have ready access to solid biblical teaching. The goal is to strengthen the global church by Christ-exalting biblical training.
It is a much needed ministry and I am very excited to be part of this organization. Next year (2022) I am scheduled to teach in at least 4 countries (all from a different continent): Brazil, Togo, India, and Serbia. I may also teach in Moldova and/or Philippines/Ethiopia.
Please pray for me and my family during this wonderful but also challenging time of transition.
If you would like to team up with me and contribute financially to my support (which has to be raised)- you could do it directly here: https://trainingleadersinternational.org/give?tbl=staff&id=84.
A recurring contribution (monthly, quarterly, or yearly) is preferred.
Thank you for partnering with me, and many blessings and Shalom to you and your family!
Cristian, Ica, Isaiah, David, Talitha, and Yohan
2 Corinthians 9:15
Just re-read this. Worth reading again!
[Note: The full title should be (it would have been too long): The Root of All Sin: Why Atheists Can’t Be Happy and Many Christians Aren’t]
Most Christians are familiar with Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee’s question about the greatest commandment. The question and answer are found in Matthew 22: 36b-40.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Based on this text John Piper has a penetrating analysis on the root of all sin. It is worth reproducing below:
“The root of our sinfulness is the desire for our own…
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Being part of the family of God must mean having eyes to see the supreme worth and beauty of God.
A person blind in the physical sense may see a thousand times more glory in the Gospel of Jesus than a person with eyes.
That was certainly true of Fanny Crosby, the Christian songwriter who was bling from childhood and wrote more than five thousand songs to celebrate the glory she saw in Jesus. Without physical eyes, she saw the “great things” of God.
To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice!
Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He hath done.
[from John Piper – Reading the Bible Supernaturally]
The search for Christ in the Old Testament continues unabated. This is a good thing.
For this brief post – I would like to point out a recent article published by Willem A. VanGemeren entitled “Christocentricity and Appropriation in Calvin’s Exposition of Daniel.”
The article was published in our own Torch Trinity Journal (volume 19) which hasn’t been posted online yet. I can email you the article if you would like (email@example.com).
VanGemeren engages a bit in the introduction with the Westminster Seminary hermeneutic (see more recently Seeing Christ in All of Scripture) and then talks about Calvin’s interpretation of the Old Testament – especially as it pertains to the book of Daniel.
I highly recommend the article. For a brief critique (yes – it has drawn criticism already) see the post by my colleague Nate Shannon here.
VanGemeren shows that Calvin was NOT a ‘Judaizer,’ but rather a careful interpreter of Scripture very much concerned with ‘appropriation’ and obedience. He specifically applied the book of Daniel to himself and his fellow persecuted Christians who were in exile away from France.
Here are some worthy quotations from VanGemeren:
We cannot understand Jesus except in the context of the Bible as a whole. To detach Jesus from this story is to create a mythical figure. In his teaching and in his action he speaks and acts as the one who brings the story of God’s dealing with Israel to its point of crisis and decision. (p. 233)
John Calvin (JC) understood that the only way to serve Christ is to have a heart aflame for the GOSPEL. (p. 234)
Fulfillment is a movie rather than a still picture. (p. 239)
CALVIN saw in Daniel a type of Christ. The prefiguration is shown in Daniel’s walk with God, his obedience to him, his confidence in God’s ability to raise him from the dead [note that Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den = like a grave], and in his witness to earthly powers. (p. 247)
While I don’t remember much from the Latin I learned in school (I did not learn much to begin with :(), one proverb is still stuck in my memory: “Festina lente.” That simply means, “Hurry slowly” (Grabeste-te incet – in Romanian).
Indeed – my image of a wise man is always that of one who takes his time, he ponders and thinks hard before speaking and/or acting. It is after all, what we find many times in the Proverbs of Solomon. See for example Proverbs 14:29: “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” It is the ‘slow’ guy who is the hero, not the hasty one (admittedly the context is a bit different).
That is why I was quite surprised in my morning reading of Proverbs (one proverb a day keeps the shrink away – I just made that one up! J) to find a proverb where the wise man was allowed to run:
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
(Pro 4:12 ESV)
A bit of context is important here. The father/teacher is saying that if you go on the paths of righteousness (4:11), where there is light (4:18) and the path is level – you can run and you won’t stumble. It is possible, therefore, for the wise to run, as long as he/she is on the right path.
Not so with the wicked/fool. But why? Because he/she will stumble. Why? It is really dark out there…: “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (Pro 4:19 ESV) It seems to be not only very dark, but full with all kinds of unexpected obstacles.
Therefore, watch out wicked and foolish people. It is really dark out there, even if you slow down, you will probably stumble.
Meanwhile – I am happy to know that I can be wise even if I am running…as long as I make sure I am on the paths of righteousness. It is fairly level there, and plenty of light.
I got to run now. The whether is quite nice outside! 🙂
Did you know that there is a Theology of Play? Just ask Jürgen Moltmann.
Now – closer to our times, there is a very important volume on this topic published recently by evangelical Christians. It is called The Image of God in the Human Body: Essays on Christianity and Sports and you can have it for a mere $149.95 [though it seems to be out of stock on Amazon].
If you play with that kind of money, buy yourself one and then grab an extra copy and send it to me! 🙂
As a ‘player’ [I play soccer almost weekly and I used to play many sports in my youth :)] I am very much interested in this subject and I plan to read some more. I hope these readings will help me have a healthy/biblical view about this important topic.
I do know that God made Leviathan “to play [some translations ‘sport’] with,” but other than that I have my doubts about play in a Christian context. What bothers me the most is that Jesus seems to have never played, at least in his last three years of life. I can see, however, how this is a very special case.
But, did the disciples play? Did my ‘heroes,’ the Puritans, play? Hmm…I don’t see much play there either!?
I will have to ponder more on this. Meanwhile, these resources should help to get us started. If play is a big part of your life [well, it should not be a BIG part of anyone’s life; I am pretty sure about that] you will benefit if you have a clearer biblical/theological understanding of this.
Now I have to get back to work, lest my friends and family think that all I do is play! 🙂
P.S. I haven’t written much on this blog for quite some time. Can you guess why? Yes, you are right, no time for play! 😦
P.S. 2. If you are one of our students taking Intensive Greek right now, please get back to your studies! I am pretty sure there is no time for you to play! Unless, of course, Greek is child’s play for you!? 🙂
I don’t have much time these days for posts, but I decided to post this debate between Richard Dawkins and Britain’s chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks.
Sacks is pretty good, but fairly week on some issues. For example, he had no idea on how to follow up on his charge of anti-Semitism. However, he did get Dawkins to apologize that he had no idea that the people who persecuted the Jews in the Middle Ages had the same view of the OT (a God of violence etc.) as he does. Frankly, I was very surprised by his complete lack of historical understanding about the Jewish people (I take him at his word that he did not know). There is a lot to be said about this. I hope to do it in a future post.
It is also interesting to see the encounter about “junk DNA,” as it seems fairly clear that Dawkins changed his view on this, but the Rabbi did not know to press him on this. See for example thisanalysis by David Klinghoffer.
Put this one in the pile of cases where ‘research’ confirms what common sense could have told you a long time ago!
The House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee released a report on Friday entitled A Better Approach to Teenage Pregnancy Prevention: Sexual Risk Avoidance. The report makes it clear that abstinence education is the best approach when it comes to the different approaches for teaching sex education to teenagers.
How surprising! NOT!
For more detail and relevant links see this fine post.
Other studies (see the link above) have shown that abstaining from sex before marriage, and even limiting the number of partners, helps marriages to be more stable and also more intimate.
I recommend Bible Mesh for a well done introduction to the Bible. Their first era (Creation) starts with the following words: “Before there was time, before there was space, there was God! And God spoke time and space into being. He spoke galaxies into being, …and on one planet he spoke life….
Interestingly enough, towards the end of his monumental Tractatus, Ludwig Wittgenstein, the leading analytical philosopher of the twentieth century, conceded, ‘The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time.’85
Looking at the issue from a scientific angle, Michael Behe goes a significant step further: ‘As we reach the end of this book [Darwin’s Black Box], we are left with no substantive defence against what feels to be a strange conclusion: that life was designed by an intelligent agent.’86
Today, the enlightened scientific community tells us that the universe created itself from nothing! I will let you choose which is the more sensible and logic choice.
Blanchard, John (2011-08-05). Does God Believe in Atheists? (Kindle Locations 6989-6993). Evangelical Press. Kindle Edition.
I posted some notes on Proverbs 3:13 here.
ENJOY and feel free to send me your comments!
These days I am preaching on psalm 73 at Wangsung English Ministry . This is a very deep wisdom psalm and it has a ‘pivotal’ role in the editing of the Psalter (it appears in the middle of the Psalter, the first of Book III).
To prepare for my sermon I try to read a few good commentaries (the best must be the one by Allen P. Ross) and to listen to a few good sermons (usually from the Gospel Coalition site). Of course – one of the best on this must be Martyn-Lloyd Jones (see his book Faith on Trial).
This week I decided to also take a look at the Jewish perspective, and I found in my library the book A Rabbi Reads the Psalms, by Jonathan Magonet. It has some good insights, but I am not sure (from reading only the section on psalm 73), that it is worth the buy.
In any case, I find this quote from Levi Yitschak of Berditchev useful in connection with Psalm 73 (p. 188):
“I do not beg You to reveal to me the secret of Your ways – I could not bear it. But show me one thing; show it to me more clearly and more deeply; show me what this, which is happening at this very moment, means to me, what it demands of me, what You, Eternal One of the world, are telling me by way of it. Ah, it is not why I suffer, that I wish to know, but only whether I suffer for Your sake.”
Tatsuya Shindo was a gangster in Japan. More precisely he was a Yakuza.
He converted to Christianity in one of his prison stints and is now a pastor/preacher in a converted bar. You can read more about him here.
What really inspired me, and should encourage every church planter, was his commitment to preaching. After he became a Christian in prison, he felt called to be a pastor and to preach the gospel. According to his testimony at the TTGU Chapel, he preached for 6 months only to a dog. That was his only audience, but he persevered because he believed that God called him to preach the Gospel.
How many of us have displayed and will display that kind of commitment and perseverence?
Now he has been blessed by the Lord. His church is full and he has been used by God for a revival in some of Japan’s toughest jails.
Praise the Lord and let’s keep our brother Tatsuya Shindo and Japan in our prayers. Maybe revival in Japan will start from the prison!?
This is just a test to see if I can embed a sermon.
It is a sermon on Psalm 3: Salvation Belongs to the Lord. And it was preached on October 30, 2011 at Wangsung English Ministry.
I don’t write much these days, but there are some articles that leave you speechless – to say the least. Here is Maureen Dowd accusing Rick Santorum of religious fanaticism, and praising the classical liberal agenda.
Rick Santorum is called “a small-town mullah” because he is personally against contraceptives and of course he is pro-life (among others). Read the article for yourself.
According to Dowd, “Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell… also wants to drag women back into a cave.” That is because he wants to pass a bill that requires “women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound…an invasion that anti-abortion groups hope would shame some women into changing their minds once they saw or heard about traits of the fetus.”
I am trying to see if I can post an audio sermon.
Here it is: Psalm 15 – The Genius of the Reformation
I hope it works!
The debate on spanking continues. Here are some of my comments with a lot of benefit from John Piper (as usual). See also the well done post by Martin Shields and the relevant philosophical approach of David Benatar from the Philosophy department of University of Cape Town.
Let me say first that both sides have been guilty of unwarranted argumentation: I have known children who have [not] been spanked who turned out fine. Sure. I am sure there are people who have been abused who have turned out “fine” (whatever that means). God’s grace is great and unpredictable and many kids turned out just ‘fine’ despite our imperfect way(s) of raising them. On the other hand, there may be children who have been raised ‘perfectly’ (what does that mean?) who did not turn out so well…
To get back to our issue – this question is certainly related to our theology of suffering and also of God.
Since many people on this blog (seems to me) lived and live in countries where Christians did not suffer (especially physical) pain, I can understand why suffering (it seems especially physical) is such a big problem. For some of us who lived in Communist or other countries where Christians suffered various kinds of persecution and (yes) physical pain, we learned to see its benefits too! While it can be argued that the pain was inflicted by the ‘bad guys,’ and that is mostly true, as believers in a sovereign God we also understood it as a way that God was disciplining us and working on our character. Some of the most beautiful characters I know/knew were people who were ‘chiseled’ by suffering (e.g. Richard Wurmbrand).
Contrary to what one commentator said [if I remember correctly] our God, the Loving Father, did punish His children [Israel etc] in various ways and some of them did involve PAIN (physical included).
 Square brackets are used for ‘footnotes.’
The debate about “to spank or not to spank” continues and is even heating up. The article and comments from Dr. John Stackhouse’s blog are very useful. Frankly – most times I learn more from the comments. It is worth reading Andrew Tsui’s comments on that blog and also Roger’s. I also wrote a short post here.
I sense from that blog that the attitude of the majority who are against spanking is one of superiority. Here are these uncivilized “cave men” who still believed in spanking, but they actually need to grow up and learn the new and more effective ways to deal with their children. As if the people who believe in some form of mild and loving spanking are not aware of these ‘new’ methods and every time they get into a difficult situation they resort to spanking! Oh brother! To borrow the expression of one startled commentator from the non-spanking side… 🙂
Personally – I have to confess again. YES – I was spanked. I was disciplined physically by my mother, my father, and by my grandparents. And I am very happy and thankful for that. I am fairly confident that most of the times I deserved it and it did good to me. I am not anti social, I am not aggressive etc…and I am willing to bet [I may try to do a mini study when I get back to my home church in Los Angeles] that most of the people from my generation were spanked [I am talking about Romanians and Romanian Americans here] and are thankful for that.
I don’t have much time these days to write blogs, but this issue definitely caught my attention. Here is a blog from John Stackhouse on this subject: Now You Can Finally Stop Hitting Your Kids. The title says it all.
It is apparently based on a Canadian study. One article dealing with this study can be found here. Here are a few relevant excerpts:
“We’re really past the point of calling this [spanking] a controversy. That’s a word that’s used and I don’t know why, because in the research there really is no controversy,” she said in an interview…”If we had this level of consistency in findings in any other area of health, we would be acting on it. We’d be pulling out all the stops to work on the issue.”
Judah Halevi (also Yehuda Halevi; Hebrew: יהודה הלוי; Arabic: يهوذا هاليفي; c. 1075–1141) was a Spanish Jewish physician, poet and philosopher. He was born in Spain, either in Toledo or Tudela,in 1075 or 1086, and died shortly after arriving in Palestine in 1141. Halevi is considered one of the greatest Hebrew poets, celebrated both for his religious and secular poems, many of which appear in present-day liturgy. His greatest philosophical work was The Kuzari. [from Wikipedia]
Here is a great Jewish song (translation only in Romanian) from Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi: With All My Heart. You can listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsGxLKBXAZE and also read the English translation.
It sounds to me like many English worship songs in our churches, so I do not see why it could not be adapted!?
Bekhol-libbi emet, uvkhol meodi
Din toată inima, o, Adevăr, și cu întreaga mea vârtute
ahavtikha, uvigluiy vesodi.
Te-am iubit, pe față și în taină.
Șemakh negdi, veekh elekh levadi?
Numele Tău e înaintea mea, și unde mă voi duce singur?
Vehu dodi, veekh eșev yehidi?
El e-al meu iubit: cum să rămân stingher?
Vehu neri, veekh yidakh meori?
El e lumina mea: cum mi se va usca făclia?
veekh ețan, vehu mișan beyadi?
Sau cum voi șovăi, când El îmi întărește mâna?
Heqilluni metim: lo yadeu ki
Defăimătorii mei zac morți: n-au știut
qeloni al-kevod șimkha kevodi!
c-a mea ocară-i perlă pentru mine în cununa Ta?
Maqom chayyay, avarekhekha vechayyay
Temeiul vieții mele, bine te voi cuvânta în viața mea
vezimrati azamerkha beodi.
și Ție-Ți voi cânta cât eu voi fi.
I am back from India and from a short vacation.
I feel that I need some solid teaching from people who are wiser than me (and there are many of those).
Therefore, I decided to watch live the conference on manhood from John Piper’s pastoral conference.
Doug Wilson has has started with “Father Hunger” in Leading the Home. It looks good with solid biblical teaching. I highly recommend it.
If you are interested, you can find the link here: http://www.desiringgod.org/live. ENJOY!
My kids actually like some vegetables…so I do not have to force feed them greens! 🙂
Due to my increasing pants size (ok – I still wear 34, but it seems that the pants are no longer a normal fit :() I am planning to eat mostly salads in the evening. Perhaps a brief Hebrew lesson and song (see below) should help me (and maybe you) with this resolution…and maybe my lovely wife will either stop cooking her delicious (but quiet rich) desserts, or I will have the wisdom and self-control to eat dessert only for lunch!?
Well – here is the brief Hebrew lesson on salads (from our friends at Learn Hebrew Online):
The one dish you find in almost every Israeli meal is the Israeli Salad (sometimes named “Arabic Salad”). This is a basic salad made of tomatoes and cucumbers thinly sliced and freshly seasoned. We may put it in pita bread, next to an omelet or simply as a meal by itself joined by a piece of bread and some cottage cheese.
Hungry? Well, today you’ll learn how to prepare an Israeli salad as well as the names of the ingredients in the Hebrew language, Don’t forget to cut it קָטָן קָטָן (to small pieces) and invite your family and friends!
Part of Speech: Noun, masculine
Literal Meaning: salad
Part of Speech: Noun, masculine, plural
Literal Meaning: vegetables
Part of Speech: adjective, masculine
Literal Meaning: chopped, thinly sliced
Israeli Salad Recipe
Tomato (f) Agvanya עַגְבָנִיָּה
Cucumber(m) melafefon מְלָפְפוֹן
Onion (m) batsal בָּצָל
Parsley (f) petrozilya פֶּטְרוֹזִילְיָה
Olive Oil (m) shemen zayit שֶׁמֶן זַיִת
Lemon (m) limon לִימוֹן
Salt & pepper (m&m) melax vepilpel מֶלַח וּפִלְפֵּל
1. Slice and dice 2 tomatoes, 1 cucumber and 1 small onion.
2. Combine the veggies in a salad bowl.
3. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp of lemon juice, some salt and pepper and 2 tbsp of chopped parsley.
4. Mix, serve and enjoy!
You may add any other kind of vegetables, fresh leaves (like mint, oregano, or basil), garlic, or olives.
Lyric: Ayin Hillel
Music: Dafna Eilat מילים: ע. הלל
לחן: דפנה אילת
All of our family
Eat salad properly
But I love the most
To eat salad a lot. Etsleinu kol hamishpaxa
Oxlim salat kahalaxa
Aval ani yoter mikol
Salat ohev lizlol. אֶצְלֵנוּ כָּל הַמִּשְׁפָּחָה
אוֹכְלִים סָלָט כַּהֲלָכָה
אֲבָל אֲנִי יוֹתֵר מִכָּל
סָלָט אוֹהֵב לִזְלֹל.
You can listen to Dalia Friedland sing this song here .
Maybe my wife will read this post and I will eat an Israeli salad tonight! 🙂
I am still in Seoul. And it is cold (-5C). But thank God for my warm office (thanks to my portable heater) and so much more!
While I am still preaching through Isaiah 9:6 (I should preach on Sunday on “Prince of Peace”) I find it easier to borrow from someone else than to write my own Christmas thoughts (I may have more to say on Saturday evening, but that is kind of late :)).
Great points and hard to argue with the man!
Here are some of my favorite lines:
“I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays…Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone…Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place…Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most.”