Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hacked Road Sign in Austin, TX

Is this the coolest prank ever? It's a misdemeanor, but worth it imo. HT: BHT

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Perspective Project Update

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had been converted to the New Perspective on Paul and that I would be writing something about it. I am working on that project, it's just taking a long time. I plan on breaking the presentation into seven (!) parts:

1. Introduction
2. The "Old" Perspective on Paul (Luther on Paul and the Law)
3. Second Temple Judaism and Covenantal Nomism
4. Paul's Conversion/Call and Ministry (including the infamous "Antioch Incident")
5. The New Perspective on Paul, the Law, and Jewish/Gentile Relations
6. Disclaimers and Clarifications
7. Conclusions and Implications (including theological positions taken by popular American evangelicals that I reject because of the New Perspective on Paul)

I have a rough draft for part 2 and I'm moving along on part 3. I want to finish everything before I start posting them.

This project seriously cuts into my Guitar Hero time, so I need to be careful. Thank you for understanding.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm a Man! I'm 30! I'm not a Kid!

(Sorry, that's an allusion to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.)

I turned 30 yesterday.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not moping around worrying about my rapidly aging body, and I'm not about to buy a motorcycle or plan to scale Mount Everest. (Although I did just get an XBox 360 and Guitar Hero. Perhaps that is my fountain of youth.)

I remember when my parents were 34 and 35. They were OLD. Now I'm almost that old.

I also remember when my sister Erin was Zack's age. So, for the first time, it's easy for me to put myself in my parents' shoes in a stage of life that I can remember. Obviously, my parents were 10 once. They were 20 once. But I remember when they were in their 30s with small kids. When my parents were my age--I was Zack's age. (Well, Meghan was Zack's age.)

So, turning 30 is like starting a new chapter in life. I'm not a kid any more--I'm a father. (Soon to be a father of 2.) I no longer think in terms of "what will I be doing in 10 years," but in terms of "what will Zack be doing in 10 years?" It's strange how life changes you.

Our culture makes light of growing older. On television, especially, characters often go through identity crises as they hit "big" numbers like 30, 40, 50, or 60. It's like there is a clock ticking, and you only have so many years to get in everything that you want to do. You should have as much fun as possible when you're young because when you're old you can't do all the stuff you want to do.

But I don't feel any of that. Maybe I'm starting to think of life in terms of cycles. You have the kid phase. Then you have the parent phase. Then you have the grandparent phase. If you're lucky you get the great-grandparent phase. I suspect that each phase is as wonderful as the last one--filled with wonder as the next generation comes to life and the cycle continues.

I always tell people that best thing about having a kid is that you get to live life over again. We took Zack to the zoo, and he was captivated by a walrus. When was the last time I stood awestruck at a walrus? When you have kids, you get to experience the wonder and mystery of life over again as your kids experience it for the first time. It's the next phase in the cycle.

People keep asking me if I feel older because I'm 30.

Yes, I do.

But that's not a bad thing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Psalm 26

Psalm 26 reads:

By David.

Vindicate me, O LORD,
for I have integrity,
and I trust in the LORD without wavering.

2 Examine me, O LORD, and test me!
Evaluate my inner thoughts and motives!

3 For I am ever aware of your faithfulness,
and your loyalty continually motivates me.

4 I do not associate with deceitful men,
or consort with those who are dishonest.

5 I hate the mob of evil men,
and do not associate with the wicked.

6 I maintain a pure lifestyle,
so I can appear before your altar, O LORD,
7 to give you thanks,
and to tell about all your amazing deeds.

8 O LORD, I love the temple where you live,
the place where your splendor is revealed.

9 Do not sweep me away with sinners,
or execute me along with violent people,
10 who are always ready to do wrong
or offer a bribe.

11 But I have integrity!
Rescue me and have mercy on me!

12 I am safe,
and among the worshipers I will praise the LORD.

The prayer of Psalm 26 is simple: vindicate me. Apparently, the psalmist was caught up in some kind of trouble (local or national), and he didn't feel that he deserved to be "swept away with sinners" or "executed along with violent people." Although there were evil people around him, he did his best to avoid their council and remain innocent of their crimes.

I love this psalm for its emotion and its simplicity. The author just wants help, but he wants it badly. It seems as if he is pleading with God--"You know me. You know my character. You know I don't deserve what is happening to me. Let the truth be known and come to my rescue!"

It's comforting to know that we have a God who vindicates His people.

"Father, I thank you for Your righteousness. I thank you that You preserve the righteous and those who seek after you. We confess our confidence and our trust in You. Amen."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Psalm 25

Psalm 25 (NET) reads:

By David.

O LORD, I come before you in prayer.

2 My God, I trust in you.
Please do not let me be humiliated;
do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me!

3 Certainly none who rely on you will be humiliated.
Those who deal in treachery will be thwarted and humiliated.

4 Make me understand your ways, O LORD!
Teach me your paths!

5 Guide me into your truth and teach me.
For you are the God who delivers me;
on you I rely all day long.

6 Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O LORD,
for you have always acted in this manner.

7 Do not hold against me the sins of my youth or my rebellious acts!
Because you are faithful to me, extend to me your favor, O LORD!

8 The LORD is both kind and fair;
that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live.

9 May he show the humble what is right!
May he teach the humble his way!

10 The LORD always proves faithful and reliable
to those who follow the demands of his covenant.

11 For the sake of your reputation, O LORD,
forgive my sin, because it is great.

12 The LORD shows his faithful followers
the way they should live.

13 They experience his favor;
their descendants inherit the land.

14 The LORD's loyal followers receive his guidance,
and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.

15 I continually look to the LORD for help,
for he will free my feet from the enemy's net.

16 Turn toward me and have mercy on me,
for I am alone and oppressed!

17 Deliver me from my distress;
rescue me from my suffering!

18 See my pain and suffering!
Forgive all my sins!

19 Watch my enemies, for they outnumber me;
they hate me and want to harm me.

20 Protect me and deliver me!
Please do not let me be humiliated,
for I have taken shelter in you!

21 May integrity and godliness protect me,
for I rely on you!

22 O God, rescue Israel
from all their distress!

In Psalm 25, the psalmist finds himself surrounded by enemies who wish to humiliate him. He cries out to God for protection, proclaiming "The LORD always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your reputation, O LORD,
forgive my sin, because it is great." Note that He doesn't point to any of his righteous acts that merit the Lord's protection, but pleas on behalf of the covenant--God had sworn to protect Israel, and His reputation was on the line.

At the same time, the psalmist recognizes that the law was given as a rule for life. In vv. 4–5, he seems to confess that God's way is the best way and that if he had lived according the law he wouldn't be in his current situation. Yet he asks for mercy and forgiveness in vv. 6–7.

I love the psalmist's penitent heart. He doesn't claim that he deserves God's protection because of all the good he's done. He simply says, "God, You are faithful and good. You've always protected Your people and You've sworn to always do the same. Please help me now. I trust in You for protection."

Last week our church reflected on "The fellowship of suffering" (Phil 3:10). We Christians face a strange dissonance. We worship a God who has sworn to protect and bless His people. Yet His own Son, when dying on the cross cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34 NET) We confess that the way of Christ is the way of the cross, yet the words of Christ by their very nature express surprise. If God was a God who forsook His people in their hour of need, He wouldn't have had to ask the question.

My own way of harmonizing the dissonance is to remember that this life is not the last word. I read the psalms, with their promises of divine favor, and I don't walk away thinking, "I'm going to have a good day today." I read the promises of the psalms, and I walk away thinking, "We have a good God." The way of the Jesus is the way of the cross. Paul wrote that in the end YHWH will put everything in submission to Christ (1 Cor 15: 24–28). This implies that things currently remain in rebellion against their Creator, and the clearest reminder of this is death.

Thus the title of this blog, from Romans 8:20–24:

"For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?

God is "the God who delivers me," as the psalmist proclaimed, even in our humiliation. For God is faithful and compassionate, and He will vindicate those who trust in Him.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Psalm 24

Psalm 24 (NET) reads:

A psalm of David.

The LORD owns the earth and all it contains,
the world and all who live in it.

2 For he set its foundation upon the seas,
and established it upon the ocean currents.

3 Who is allowed to ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may go up to his holy dwelling place?

4 The one whose deeds are blameless
and whose motives are pure,
who does not lie,
or make promises with no intention of keeping them.

5 Such godly people are rewarded by the LORD,
and vindicated by the God who delivers them.

6 Such purity characterizes the people who seek his favor,
Jacob's descendants, who pray to him. (Selah)

7 Look up, you gates!
Rise up, you eternal doors!
Then the majestic king will enter!

8 Who is this majestic king?
The LORD who is strong and mighty!
The LORD who is mighty in battle!

9 Look up, you gates!
Rise up, you eternal doors!
Then the majestic king will enter!

10 Who is this majestic king?
The LORD who leads armies!
He is the majestic king! (Selah)

Psalm 24 is an awesome proclamation of the relationship between Israel and YHWH. It begins with their core belief of YHWH as the sole creator of the universe--"The LORD owns the earth and all it contains, the world and all who live in it." Then, it moves to the type of people of whom YHWH approves--namely "The one whose deeds are blameless and whose motives are pure." The psalmist reminds Israel that this is the lifestyle that accompanies her covenant with YHWH. They were to serve only Him, and to love justice and mercy. Finally, the psalmist recounts the benefits of this covenant with YHWH. He describes him as a conquering king entering into the gates of Jerusalem. He is the LORD who leads armies.

In short, Psalm 24 was a reminder to Israel of the covenant stipulations given at Sinai. YHWH, the only true God, is mighty and has sworn to protect His people. Israel, in turn, was to live according to the Law of Moses, a life characterized by service of YHWH only, and a pursuit of justice (aka "righteousness") and mercy.

Christian theology has evolved since the writing of Psalm 24. Not too many of us have "obey God and He'll put the beat down on your enemies" theology. However, we do look to an eschatological vindication, in which Jesus will put every wrong to right, and put all of his enemies (including death) under his feet. As the people of God, we are still to worship YHWH alone (the Trinitarian YHWH) and pursue righteousness and mercy.

"Father, I confess that You own the earth and everything that it contains. You are the majestic king--strong and mighty, mighty in battle. I thank You that You are righteous--that You can be trusted and that You are loyal. I thank You for Christ--that while He was blameless and pure, He suffered wrath to reconcile us to You. I confess that Jesus is alive, that He is reigning in heaven, and that He is reconciling all things to Himself. I pray that I would be a man of righteousness and of mercy. Amen."

Do As We Say, Not As We Did

What do you think about this video from the New York Times about sweatshops in Cambodia? President elect Obama plans to launch a campaign to raise global working conditions. We would pressure foreign nations to abandon practices like the use of sweatshops.

The video argues that many people in the developing world would love to work in a sweatshop, because the alternative is digging through trash.

Obviously, none of us would like to work in a sweatshop, and the thought of our clothing being made in one makes us feel bad that we have eight-hour work days, child labor laws, unions, minimum wage, mandatory breaks, etc. But the narrator of the video makes a good point--the solution to global poverty is the introduction of manufacturing jobs to the developing world. Without manufacturing jobs, the poorest nations will continue to grow poorer.

When a nation develops a manufacturing sector, the initial jobs are in sweatshops. However, even these sweatshops boost the local economy and stabilize the government. Eventually, higher end jobs will come to the country, boosting the economy and stabilizing the government even more. Who would work at a sweatshop for $1 a day if the factory next door is paying $2 a day? Who would work for $2 if someone is offering $10? But, manufacturing jobs that pay $40 an hour are not going to move to countries like Cambodia. There isn't an education system, economy, or government to support it. Those need to be developed over time.

Now, the other side of it is that the people who control the means of production will exploit workers whenever possible. Even if a factory can afford to pay its workers a living wage, it may continue to pay them $1 a day--especially if poverty is rampant and uneducated people are desperate for jobs. So government/economic pressure is appropriate at times to make corporations do the ethical thing.

But here is the question of the day--Should we oppose sweatshops in countries like Cambodia, or are they a natural starting point for bigger and better things? And before we tell others what to do, perhaps we should think how our country became great. We have child labor laws and working condition laws now, but that wasn't always the case. America became great through sweatshops. Think China. Sweatshops in the past, economic superpower today. The same is true for both Japan and India. Is there an economic power today who didn't at one time use sweatshops? Do these powers have the right to tell others not to do the same--"Do as we say, not as we did"?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 (NET) reads:

A psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.

2 He takes me to lush pastures,
he leads me to refreshing water.

3 He restores my strength.
He leads me down the right paths for the sake of his reputation.

4 Even when I must walk through a dark ravine,
I fear no danger,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff keep me calm.

5 You prepare a feast before me
in plain sight of my enemies.
You refresh my head with oil;
my cup is full of wine.

6 Surely your goodness and faithfulness will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the LORD's palace for the rest of my life.

This isn't the most poetic version of Psalm 23 I've ever read, but you gotta love the NET Bible for communicating in plain English the meaning of the original languages. (By the way, the NET Bible is an awesome resource for that kind of thing. There are 60,237 translator's notes that give you the original languages, options for translation, and why NET worded the English text the way they did. Plus it was produced by the guys at DTS, and they gave me permission to reproduce large chunks of their translation on my blog for free.)

I notice some things for the first time as I read the NET version of Psalm 23. First, I love how they render "for his name's sake" as "for the sake of his reputation." That's what the psalmist is getting at--God's reputation is at stake when it comes to the protection of his people. Second, I love verse 4. "The valley of the shadow of death" is a timeless image, but it isn't clear that the psalmist is talking about walking home at night alone. We might paraphrase verse 4, "Even when I head out to the parking lot at night, I'm not scared because God is there." Finally, I love how they rendered "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies" as "You prepare a feast for me in plain sight of my enemies." It really communicates the idea of honor and shame--important concepts in the OT world (think Mordecai and Haman).

Psalm 23 is arguably the greatest poem ever written. I love how the NET takes the poetry and brings it down to real life--God is looking out for us. When we're worried, when we're afraid, when we're confused, we can know that God will protect us for his reputation's sake.

"Father, I thank you for protecting your people. I thank you that we can be confident--that we don't have to fear danger, for you are with us. I confess that there is nothing that takes you by surprise, nothing that can thwart your will, nothing that can deter your plans. I thank you that, despite your greatness, you take time to protect me. Amen."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Psalm 22

Psalm 22 (NET) reads:

For the music director; according to the tune "Morning Doe;" a psalm of David.

My God, my God, why do you reject me?
I groan in prayer, but help seems far away.

2 My God, I cry out during the day,
but you do not answer,
and during the night my prayers do not let up.

3 You are sovereign;
you sit as king over the worshiping community of Israel.

4 In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted in you and you rescued them.

5 To you they cried out, and they were saved;
in you they trusted and they were not disappointed.

6 But I feel like a worm, not a man;
people insult me and despise me.

7 All who see me taunt me;
they mock me and shake their heads.

8 They say,
"Commit yourself to the LORD!
Let the LORD rescue him!
Let the LORD deliver him, for he delights in him."

9 Yes, you are the one who pulled me from the womb,
and made me feel secure on my mother's breasts.

10 I have been dependent on you since birth;
from the time I came out of my mother's womb you have been my God.

11 Do not remain far away from me,
for trouble is near and I have no one to help me.

12 Many bulls surround me;
powerful bulls of Bashan hem me in.

13 They get ready to devour me like a roaring lion that rips its prey.

14 My strength drains away like water;
all my bones are dislocated;
my courage is like wax;
it melts away inside me.

15 The roof of my mouth is as dry as a piece of pottery;
my tongue sticks to my gums.
You are making me descend into the grave.

16 Yes, wild dogs surround me--
a gang of evil men crowd around me;
like a lion they pin my hands and feet to the ground.

17 I can count all my bones;
my enemies are gloating over me in triumph.

18 They are dividing up my clothes among themselves;
they are rolling dice for my garments.

19 But you, O LORD, do not remain far away!
You are my source of strength! Hurry and help me!

20 Deliver me from the sword!
Save my life from the paws of the wild dogs!

21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lion,
and from the horns of the wild oxen!
You have answered me!

22 I will declare your name to my countrymen!
In the middle of the assembly I will praise you!

23 You loyal followers of the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, worship him!
All you descendants of Israel, stand in awe of him!

24 For he did not despise or shun the humble condition of the oppressed;
he did not ignore him;
when he cried out to him, he responded.

25 You are the reason I offer praise in the great assembly;
I will fulfill my promises before the LORD's loyal followers.

26 Let the oppressed eat and be filled!
Let those who seek his help praise the LORD!
May you experience lasting encouragement!

27 Let all the people of the earth acknowledge the LORD and turn to him!
Let all the nations worship you!

28 For the LORD is king and rules over the nations.

29 All of the robust people of the earth will join the celebration and worship;
all those who are descending into the grave will bow before him,
including those who cannot preserve their lives.

30 A whole generation will serve him;
they will tell the next generation about the sovereign Lord.

31 They will come and tell about his saving deeds;
they will tell a future generation what he has accomplished.

I love this psalm. You can't help but identify with the psalmist as you read the vivid imagery of his opponents pinning him to the ground like lions and mocking him. He cries out to God, "My God, my God, why do you reject me? I groan in prayer, but help seems far away. My God, I cry out during the day, but you do not answer, and during the night my prayers do not let up."

Have you been there?

The tone changes at the end as the Lord has answered his prayer. He writes, "You loyal followers of the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, worship him! All you descendants of Israel, stand in awe of him! For he did not despise or shun the humble condition of the oppressed; he did not ignore him; when he cried out to him, he responded."

It's amazing how brokenness and honesty before God--even brutal, scathing honesty--can result in praise and adoration. Before the psalmist could say, "All you descendants of Israel, stand in awe of him! For he did not despise or shun the humble condition of the oppressed; he did not ignore him; when he cried out to him, he responded," he had to be at a place where he said, "My God, my God, why do you reject me?"

No one likes that place. But we need it.

I like to journal my prayers. On one page I like to write about the things that really weigh heavy on my heart--fears about the future, frustrations about the present, regrets about the past--and on the other I like to write down ways in which God has answered those prayers. So, when I am at a place when I am asking, "My God, my God, why do you reject me?" I can see how He has delivered me in the past. It doesn't always lessen the pain, but it reminds me that God truly is in charge and that we are "not tossed about on the winds of chance," as Alistair Begg reminds us.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Fistful Of Dollars: The Story of a Loan from Kieran Ball on Vimeo.

Watch this video of a story. It will be the best 11:03 of your day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Come and See

I was reading through John yesterday, and I was struck by a profound phrase in chapter 1--"Come and see." The Greek word for "come," erchomai, occurs 11 times in John 1. The word for "see," horaƍ, occurs 9 times in the same chapter. Obviously, there is an emphasis on "coming" and "seeing."

The words occur together in 1:39, 1:46, and 1:47. In 1:39, two of John's disciples ask Jesus where he is staying, and he replies, "Come and you will see." In 1:46, Philip, a follower of Jesus, goes to get his brother Nathanael. He says to Nathanael, "We have found the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth." Nathanael responds, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip says, "Come and see."

To John there is a correlation between "coming" to Jesus and "seeing." He writes about Jesus, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it" (John 1:4–5 NIV). Those who follow Jesus comes into the light and they see. Those who do not believe remain in darkness. The prototypical example of this is the contrast between the man born blind and the Pharisees in John 9. The man born blind testifies before the Pharisees, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" (John 9:25 NIV) Later, Jesus says, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind" (John 9:39 NIV).

There was something about Jesus that was beyond description. You had to come and see; and then it all made sense.

As I believe that the church continues the ministry of Jesus, I wonder how often people say about us "come and see." Jesus said, "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:26–27). The work of the Holy Spirit in the church is a testimony to Jesus. In short, when people "come" to us, they should "see" Jesus.

"Father, I pray that we would live in such a way to testify to Jesus. The world is looking for answers, and we confess that we have found them in Your Son. May my life, and the life of the church be such that people tell their friends, 'come and see.'"

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Good Life Sermon 8--"What Can This Relationship Do for Me?"

On Sunday, January 4th I taught the eighth message in my series called The Good Life: Redeeming Suburbia through Counter-cultural Living, in which I am contrasting the message of suburbia about living the good life with the message of Jesus about living the good life. We talked about the seventh myth of suburban living, "What Can This Relationship Do for Me?"

In short, we treat people as a means to an end. We don't have friends--we have contacts. We maintain relationships with people because of the things they can do for us.

In contrast, John 4 recounts the story of Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. The Samaritan woman couldn't do anything for Jesus. He was a Jew and she was a Samaritan woman. By all social mores, he shouldn't have even talked to her. Further, the woman was probably the talk of the town as she had been divorced five times and she was living with a sixth guy to whom she wasn't married. The whole conversation would have been a little scandalous.

But Jesus was always a little scandalous. He didn't care about the kind of social standing a person had. He didn't use people to climb the social ladder. He treated people like people. In the same way, we should treat people like people, not like a means to an end. Maybe we all need a few more friends and a few less contacts.
You can listen to this sermon, others in The Good Life series, or any recent sermons by me or Gary Albert here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Quote of the Day

"I love Believers Fellowship. The worship is great, Gary's teaching is great, and Matt is . . . uh . . . interesting." (From a telephone conversation I had earlier today)

There you have it folks! I have officially graduated from "Matt is really smart" (translation: "I have no idea what he is talking about half of the time") to "Matt is interesting" (translation: "He tries; and you gotta love the effort").

The Good Life Sermon 7--"My Church Is the Problem"

On December 28th, I taught the seventh lesson in The Good Life series. We looked at David Goetz's sixth myth of suburbia--"My Church Is The Problem."

In suburbia, we treat churches like consumers. If we want some pizza, we go to the local pizzeria. If we want a haircut, we go to the local hairstylist or barbershop. If we need our car fixed, we go to the local auto mechanic. If we need some Jesus, we go to the local church. If we don't like the haircut we get at one barbershop, we go to a different one. If the local auto mechanic is too expensive, we go to a different one. If we don't like the Jesus we're getting at First Baptist, we go to Second Baptist.

Is that the role that church should play in our lives? When we aren't connecting to God very well, is our church the problem?

We looked at Jesus' interaction with Simon Peter. In The Gospel of John, Peter is contrasted with Judas. Judas denied Christ; Peter denied Christ. While Judas went off and hung himself, Peter took responsibility for his spiritual life and came back to Jesus. Like Peter, we need to take responsibility for our spiritual lives.

Most of the time, when we are not "being fed" at church, we're the problem, not the church. If we want to live the good life, we need to start taking responsibility for our own spiritual lives.

You can download this sermon, the other sermons in The Good Life series, and all the most recent sermons by me and Gary Albert here.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The World Is Flat By Thomas Friedman

Read this book.

In The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman explores the world that has been "flattened" by globalization. He explains how we got here and what it means for nations, corporations, and individuals. Friedman argues that in the past, the global economy was run by nations. Then, it was run by large corporations. But thanks to the power of the global flatteners (internet, personal computers, fiber optic cables, etc.) the future of the global economy will be shaped by individuals. Today, anyone with a personal computer and an internet connection can start a business and compete globally.

I think I liked this book so much because I have been wrestling with ideas about global poverty, the Gospel's challenge to care for the poor and disenfranchised, and the reality of what I can do as a middle-class American Christian. I know I can't solve the problem myself, but I can at least be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

I think that micro-finance is the future of the western church's involvement in developing nations. America has grown great by our entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of exploiting developing nations so that we can live more comfortably, we need to encourage developing nations to industrialize and lift themselves out of poverty. A small loan of a couple of hundred dollars can be all it takes to help an entrepreneur in a developing nation start his or her own business. In this way, we are not handing out relief aid and teaching people to be dependant upon the provision of others, we are offering them a fair and reasonable way for them to lift themselves out of poverty.

I also highly recommend Erik Reinert's book, How Rich Countries Got Rich . . . And Why Poor Countries Stay Poor for an excellent discussion of how the developed world perpetuates the poverty of developing nations, and how we can change to better help them. If you want to know more about micro-finance and micro-enterprise, visit

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Finished Translating the New Testament

Yesterday I finished translating the New Testament for the second time in my life. It's a ton of work, but it helps me understand the Scriptures unlike anything else I do.

I'm debating what to do next. I don't have the courage to tackle the Hebrew Old Testament. My Hebrew is not good enough to do it in a timely manner. It would take me several years to do the whole thing.

I have considered translating the LXX. Although knowledge of Hebrew is certainly valuable for New Testament studies, I'm not sure how widespread knowledge of Hebrew was among the early church. I think much of the language of the New Testament was borrowed from the LXX, so translating it would shed light on the vocabulary of the early church.

I will probably try it out and see how hard it is.