Sabbatical Progress – Week 2

Continuing what I began last week, I wanted to give you a little taste of what sabbatical has involved this week. Still a bunch of reading, but other stuff, too! God has been speaking through it all, answering prayers for wisdom and understanding, while at the same time challenging me in areas that I haven’t fully considered or in some ways hadn’t dared to consider.

  • I’ve continued to keep ahead with my Hebrew work. I’m really enjoying Hebrew! The approach taken by the author (the professor) is quite engaging. The workbook is really helpful for cementing ideas after doing the memory work.
  • I continue to make daily progress on 6 Ways the Old Testament Speaks Today. The readings on the voice of prophesy were great. Today, I started in on “The Voice of Wisdom”. The way the author sets Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes in contrast to one another was insightful, to say the least. Looking forward to seeing it fleshed out this week (and maybe just a little more from Song of Solomon)! This has been a great resource in daily engaging with Scripture.
  • As well, I am progressing through The Path to Being a Pastor. This is a really good book. It has been convicting, encouraging, and altogether challenging so far, and I am only a third of the way in.
  • Today, in coordination with our church’s week of missional focus, I began Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. I’m only through the introduction, but J. Mack Stiles is already challenging and winsomely engaging the reader. As a side-note, I will say that John Power, who gave the sermon this morning, did a really good job. Also, all those who read Scripture came prepared and did an awesome job of doing more than reading – but really helping the congregation engage the Word.
  • On a more restful note, I have also taken some time for some fiction, with Asimov’s The End of Eternity and Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings. Both authors do a great job at building worlds and capturing people.
  • And, as a final note on “rest”, after some grueling work getting the room clean and the puzzle table in place, I started a puzzle for the first time in a while. It’s going to be beautiful, although for now, I must say it is maddening. The pieces are not very firmly connected, so they shift really easily. Also, the distinction between pieces can be quite unclear. It will be slower-going than intended!

So, onward to week 3. And thinking on a number of themes that God brought together this week, I’ll leave you with this from Deuteronomy 6:

Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise…

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 ESV

Sabbatical Progress – Week 1

So, today was the first Sunday of my September sabbatical. It’s been a restful time so far, and that time has also been put to some good use! Thought I’d stop a moment each Sunday and consider the week. Primarily, this is a help to me, helping me remember what God is doing.

  • So, for starters, there has been a bunch of prayer. Prayer for my local church, prayer for my wife and kids, prayer for direction. Especially, I’ve been in prayer asking God to raise up leaders and servants, and to provide opportunities for purposeful discipleship.
  • I actually jump-started my sabbatical finishing one of my first reading goals. The book in question was Leeman’s Church Membership. I shared a couple quotes and thoughts here and here. Great book, if you are looking for something to help you think through meaningful membership.
  • I followed that up with another book in the same series, Dever’s Discipling. You can find some thoughts I posted here. Also a good read, with some great motivation for discipling with purpose, especially as it approached the final chapters.
  • I’m keeping up daily with 6 Ways the Old Testament Speaks Today. Last week, I commented on how he addressed worship. Today, I began the next “voice”, the voice of prophecy. I’m excited to get into the daily “devotional” portion, as last week bible readings were great reminders of how God calls us into worship.
  • I sprinted ahead in my Hebrew textbook, finally stopping at chapter 12. That basically got me through the Qal-stem forms (qatal, yiqtol, weqatal, and wayyiqtol, plus the infinitive construct). Now to go back and do some more systematic review. I’m still much further back in the workbook. I’ve also been busy loading up my Anki deck. Anki has really helped with memorization of vocabulary. Debating if I should put time into using SIL’s FLEx to begin capturing nominal/verbal system rules…debating if it is worth the time/effort. I haven’t done much with infixing in the tool, which would be critical.
  • I helped my father-in-law find a Bible translation that was good for reading. He specifically was looking for one that would be good for reading more for the fuller story, the flow. A nice, cheap HCSB arrived more quickly than I could have imagined.
  • The family spent the long weekend up in the North Carolina mountains visiting Kim’s parents, “camping” out in the front yard. Also a lot of hikes with the dogs. It’s been a blast, but tomorrow we will head back home.

Well, that is a lot! But it honestly has been quite restful. Getting some time set aside for determined reading means books are no longer building dust on the shelf, which is a weight off the shoulders! If you find the right moment, pray for me, that I might continue to use my time wisely.

A Retreat to the Mountains

A have the great blessing to have a couple days to myself up in the mountains. I’ll be spending it working during the day, but it does afford some evening pleasantry. Currently, I’m making chili, starting a puzzle, and marveling at the Creator’s work. But I think I am going to try to get a head start reading for my next class (Intro to OT 1), as well.

As I said, chili. This burner does not want to offer a stable “low” heat:

Mmmmm.

And a puzzle. This one is my father-in-law’s, and I’ve been meaning to finish it so I might return it:

And what beauty (and a critter living under the staircase):

Looking forward to being back Sunday for worship with the local body!

G

Out with the New, In with the Old

Week 6 of 8 is almost complete for spring term 2 (Introduction to New Testament I). I’ve enjoyed Dr. Pennington quite a lot. Nevertheless, time to start planning and registering for summer and fall. To that end, I signed up to take Introduction to Old Testament I over the summer with Dr. Betts, and then in the fall, consuming both terms, will be Elementary Hebrew with Dr. Garrett.

I think they usually suggest Greek first, then Hebrew – and I can understand it at least on the fact that Greek is closer to English than Hebrew is. If it is a first or even second time doing another language, it pays to do one similar I suppose. Having studied a few languages at this point (my current, daily study is Spanish, German and Japanese) and having some Greek already under my belt (and maybe I can study on the side to eventually test out of it?) I thought I would jump to Hebrew. I’ve studied just a smidgen of Biblical Hebrew already. I’m prepared for it to be a doozy…

And my books for Old Testament I have arrived already, even!

Back to Luke and John!

The Gospel and The Gospels

This week’s reading lays the framework for a deeper study of the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in coming weeks. So far, that reading includes Who Chose the Gospels?, by C.E. Hill, Reading the Gospels Wisely, by Jonathan T. Pennington, and Four Portraits, One Jesus (2nd Edition) by Mark L. Strauss. The reading for this week surveys the gospels themselves (what they are), the gospel message (what the gospels are for), and how the gospels have been (and are) used and studied. Great stuff, really – healthy does of history and hermeneutics.

Two passages in the reading stand out to me, both from Pennington. And why not, since he is the prof, after all!

Bringing our discussion of the first two chapters to a close we may ask again, what are the Gospels? After our exploration of the origin and usage of the euangelion word group, I proposed that for the New Testament authors the “gospel” is the proclamation of Jesus’ fulfillment of the promised return of the reign or kingdom of God. We have seen that this oral apostolic proclamation naturally and understandably is eventually written down, and the result is our canonical Gospel, given to us in its fourfold narrative form, or as we say today, the Gospels.

Reading the Gospels Wisely, pp.34-35

That acts as a powerful conclusion that allows him to move into the next chapter on why we need the Gospels, and not just the Pauline (Petrine, Johannine, etc. – the “letters”) corpus. The “modern”, scientific mindset, with its predisposition for analysis in abstract, for atomizing, isolating principles, can easily miss the big picture with all its messy interactions, a “forest for the trees” view of the world and our relationship with its creator. Narrative provides a unique way of teaching that looks more holistically at life, and thus can approach the complexity of faith in interaction with a real, fallen world in need of God. And with that, the other quote (and a reference to Tolkien!):

We are story people. In the very fabric of our beings we are spring-loaded for story. Story is how we make sense of our world and our own lives. Story powerfully creates life and hope, the lack of which is depression. Hope is imagination, and imagination is central for human flourishing and life. When we hope, we are using God’s image-bearing gift to envision a reality that does not yet exist. Creating story (including the writing of history) is at the height of or abilities as those made in God’s image or, to use Tolkien’s language, as “subcreators” modeling after the Creator. Story is created by and creates imagination. Abstract reflection and doctrine are necessary and good, but they do not have the the same kind of effect and transformative power that a story does. (italics mine)

Reading the Gospels Wisely, p.46

In my last class, an author quipped that we are interpreters of life and our circumstances. We don’t view reality objectively, but always interpretively, connecting what we see and giving it meaning. It’s been percolating in my mind, and with all this talk of hermeneutics and meaning, of teaching and life, reminds me also of Douglas Hofstadter’s Surfaces and Essences, where he makes a powerful case for understanding consciousness and thought as essentially a thorough-going development of analogy.

I have to just sit back in awe, and consider how looking at the Gospels connects math (yep), consciousness, artificial intelligence, history, philosophy, language, revelation and the heart, just to name a few things. It reminds me that God does not always give us what we might want (a single, comprehensive, written Gospel, among other things), but he knows what we need. We see glimpses of the grandeur, but he created it, and invites us to partake of his nature (1 Peter 1:4). The Gospels take our costly faith and turn it to the goals of increasing virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and finally love. They give us both the living example and effective work of Jesus. They don’t just give us information to bolster theological arguments, they call on us to follow him and be changed by him.

Blessings to my fellow followers of Jesus, as we look toward our times of local worship tomorrow: May you together experience the blessings of the body of Christ and the power of the Spirit!

Learning Through Fiction

The final “textbook” for NT1 came in the mail today. It is interesting to be assigned a fictional work, Killing a Messiah by Adam Winn. I find the idea behind it reasonable though…sometimes we get caught up in our assumptions about the backdrop, the context, of historical (and in this case religious) events. Fiction can be a way of looking at things from a slightly different angle.

Probably be a bit before I get started n this one, but looking forward to it. Already neck deep in Who Chose The Gospels, by Hill. Chapter one got right down to business countering arguments that non-canonical gospels were on an equal footing in the early centuries of the church.

“The Long Awaited Return of God”

Books are arriving for my next class, “Intro to the New Testament 1”, with Dr. Pennington. This class surveys the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Intro to NT2, which I took earlier, covered Acts through Revelation. I’ve already been through this week’s lectures, and am really looking forward to the class!

Time to get reading!

An elegant hat…for a more civilized age.

My birthday was pretty laid back this year. Jenna made me a nice coconut curry. Kim got me some items to help in the kitchen. The weekend before, a trip to Barnes and Noble resulted in me getting the first two books to the Harry Potter series in Spanish, for study purposes, español being one of the languages I am working on at the moment.

In my last post I mentioned that I received my next round of texts for school. In addition, I’ve waited with much anticipation for a splurge item. which arrived (quite on time) this morning:

I vaguely remember my dad getting a similar Stetson package in the mail when I was a teenager. His taste in hats is slightly different from mine, but it is nice to find that one milliner might serve us both so well!

Break over, time to get back to studying!

Next!

Currently mid-way on Intro to New Testament 2 with Tom Schreiner, but in the mail came some of the texts for my next class. I’ll be taking Personal Spiritual Disciplines with Don Whitney over the winter term.

Two of those are extra credit, but look really promising (both the Whitney books). I already had the other texts required for the course, Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and Pilgrim’s Progress.

In The Mail: CSB

So, class number two started yesterday: Intro to New Testament 2, taught by Tom Schreiner (woohoo!). Noted from the syllabus that we have to read Acts through Revelation (the scope of the class) in either the NIV or CSB. I usually read in the ESV these days, so decided to send out for a copy of the CSB. I got the study version, and not the single column version, though I was tempted. Been a while since I’ve used a study bible and not certain this was the best version to choose for a study bible, but thought it was worth trying out.

Looks nice, anyway!

Smells good, too!