Great Online Tool for Getting a Quick Greek Overview of Certain Verses

I am pausing my clock for my online job to write this quick note. Bible Gateway has a translation available online that is a great tool for anyone that is not a Greek scholar but who wants to dig deeper into the meaning of God’s word (I am not a Greek scholar!). You can simply type in the book, chapter, and verse. Or, you can read chunks at a time or use this source to study. It is a translation provided by Bill Mounce, one of the most well-known and respected authorities on Koine Greek (as opposed to Classical Greek, Koine Greek was the common language with which the New Testament was originally written).

Let’s take John 3:16 for example. If you click here and then type “John 3:16,” the following will appear:

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You can then click on each Greek word that is shown. Let’s say that you are interested in the type of love that is mentioned here. C.S. Lewis writes that there are four Greek words for love: storge, eros, philia, agape (see his book, The Four Loves). All you have to do is scroll the mouse over “loved” and click. The particular Greek word (with it’s particular tense in that passage) will then appear in the right-hand column. It looks like this:

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As you can see, the transliterated word agapao is a different tense than the root, but it still gives a good indicaiton of what is meant here by the word “love” in John 3:16. This kind of love, God’s unconditional love, it not based upon the merit of the beloved. This is handy to know and is wonderful to grasp on a personal level.

So whether you are studying to teach or wanting to get a better idea on what a verse means, this is a great source. Also, I have found that Mounce’s English translation reads well and is therefore pleasurable to interact with. That being said, I still enjoy using the NIV on a personal level and the NRSV for more academic-related work, but this is a good source for anyone that is hungry to know and understand God’s word.

My prayer is that we will approach Scripture with a pure heart, truly longing to know what God is saying as opposed to what we want him to say.

Hope this helps.

The Lie That Buries the Heart

I had a conversation with someone the other day and thought, “I really need to blog this.” As the individual discussed various concerns, I found myself thinking that what makes a difficult situation (a seemingly unsurmountable challenge, a relationship that is on the rocks, a season of unemployment, financial woes, depression, struggles with anxiety and fear, a sense of purposelessness, or ____________) even worse is when you believe the lie, “This season will last forever.” Of course, this lie takes on different forms:

  • “This season will never pass.”
  • “This is the way that I am going to feel for the rest of my life.”
  • “I will never turn a corner.”
  • “I will never be healthy again.”
  • “I am never going to have someone that I can truly trust.”
  • “I am never going to succeed at anything.”
  • “Nothing is ever going to change.”
  • “It is always going to be this hard.”
  • “I will never catch a break.”

This list goes on and on and are the type thoughts that can lead someone to the brink of suicide. Let is suffice to say that when you and I bite into this “fruit” (Genesis 3:1-6), we are playing right into Satan’s hands (Yes, I believe in an actual evil being who possesses significant power and who is masterful at lying; does Jesus himself not refer to his archenemy as the “Father of Lies”?). When you began to feel these things, you are on a fast track to psychological and spiritual darkness. One of the main ingredients that constitutes depression is hopelessness, and what is more hopeless than the thought that nothing is ever going to change when you are, from an emotional vantage point, lying face down in a ditch.

If your daily diet has consisted of biting this fruit, find help. Start reading a Psalm a day. Read a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). Read one of Paul’s letters. See how Jesus lifts handles broken people. He truly is the lifter of our head (Psalms 3:3). Have a talk with a parent, close friend, or pastor that you trust. If you do not have someone, then force yourself to get involved in a local church until relationships begin to form. You must face any insecurity and awkwardness and make yourself do what you need to do so that relationships can eventually take shape. We so desperately need people. One of the great advantages of having people in your life is that you hear other stories of change. In other words, other people who have felt the same thing only to find out later than we do adapt, God is faithful, and that the sun will break through the otherwise deceiving clouds. Only a few things last forever.

Do not mistake that which is impermanent for that which is permanent, and do not mistake that which is permanent for that which is impermanent. 

This too shall pass.

 

What Psychology is Saying About “Happiness”

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 11.20.51 AMAs I have mentioned before, I am in the midst of writing and fine-tuning psychology courses for high school students at Enlightium Academy. In the textbook, Psychology in Modules, Dr. David Myers (who does confess to be being an evangelical Christian) and Dr. Nathan DeWall write that happiness, like most things, is genetically influenced. However, something being genetically influenced rather than genetically determined is very different (this is a very important point in relation to the nature-nurture debate around being gay). Following this statement, they then provide the following list of 11 “research-based suggestions” for improving happiness-levels and one’s overall satisfaction with life (which bears a loose similarity with Aristotle’s eudaimonia).

  1. Realize that enduring happiness may not come from financial success (486).
  2. Take control of your life (486).
  3. Act happy (486).
  4. Seek work and leisure that engage your skills (486).
  5. Buy shared experiences rather than things (486).
  6. Join the “movement” movement (exercise; 486).
  7. Give your body the sleep it wants (487).
  8. Give priority to close relationships (487).
  9. Focus beyond self (487).
  10. Counts your blessings and record your gratitude (487).
  11. Nurture your spiritual self (487).

I found this list refreshing because in a sense, you could say that the social sciences are providing scientific evidence for what God has revealed about the human person so long ago. And, at least for Christians, this should not be surprising. With the doctrine of God as Creator at the heart of our faith, all of reality should reflect His nature and wisdom (as revealed in the Bible as well as other places) because everything was created by Him and through Him (John 3:3 “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being…) .

End of Summer

What a summer here in Edinburgh! It is on record as the warmest/dryest since 1976. It has been so nice. Lots of sunshine and very little rain. The locals keep telling us, “Don’t get use to this. This is not typical. You got lucky your first year. Usually the summers are miserable.” Oh, and wild rasberries grow everywhere. We walk around eating them every chance we get.

In addition, Hailey, Allison’s sister, spent one week with us. This was a great time as she got to experience Scotland for the first time. It was nice to have family here. Then the Lamberts came to see us! It was so good to let down, talk about familiar topics, and have fun. They are truly wonderful friends.

IMG_2216The longer I go without blogging, the harder it is to sit down and write. Too many things have happened. Some good. Some bad. Right now, we are currently living in the Marchmont area in Edinburgh. We decided too late that we wanted to stay in our flat where we spent our first year in Edinburgh. We were sad to go and desperately miss the neighbors that we built relationship with. As Alanis Morissette sang in the 90s, you live, you learn. We are now on the hunt for our second home in Scotland. The market moves insanely fast and is quite competitive. For now, we are renting week-to-week. We have property viewings today and tomorrow. We shall see.

I was recently hired as a tutor in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. This is wonderful. One of the courses is “Studying Religion” and the other is “God in Philosophy.” OMG, I don’t think that I could be more excited. The first will cover topics centered around historical, anthropological, and philosophical views of religion. The latter will take a look into the various views of God that philosophers have held over the past 3,000 years. Yep, I am giddy!!!

Did I mention that I found my own copy of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics yesterday at Oxfam for only 3GBP? Oh yes!

I am getting more and more direction for the 3rd and 4th chapter of my thesis. As opposed to the first two chapters, the third chapter is now taking a direct turn into the world of theology. I am so excited. Verses from Matthew 5 and a passage from Matthew 19 are now moving to the center of my research on supererogation (the core concept that lies at the heart of my research). The next two months will be spent digging through books and commentaries related to Matthew 5 and Matthew 19. I am so glad that I am now at the point that I get to open the book that I love the most—the Bible. I get to continue to read moral philosophy, articles and books by Christian theologians and ethicists, and the wonderful Word of God all at the same time. And of course, all of this must be done with coffee.

This week, Ezra reached what Allison called a “major milestone” in childhood. It has been wonderful. We have been celebrating this all week. However, I don’t know if we have told everyone in the fam so I better refrain from giving details! Concerning Rhema, she is on record as the chunkiest 7-month old in Scotland. Okay, this is an exaggeration and hasn’t been empirically verified, but it is probably true.

Most importantly, I want to grow in kindness and gentleness. This involves not rushing past people. This involves keeping a careful eye on the tone that I use with people including my wife and kids. Words aren’t everything, you know. This also involves trying to stay more in touch with people from past seasons. I had the opportunity to talk with Pastor Allen Hickman the other day for the first time since moving here to Scotland. It was wonderful. He makes me want to be better. He makes me want to be more humble. I appreciate the influence he has had in my past as well as now though it looks differently.

May the Lord use all of us today in the lives of people. People are hurting. People need to talk with someone. People are torn with busyness, stress, pain, disappointment, and confusion. For all of us in Christ, we have light and warmth. Holy Spirit, use us today in small and humble ways. Help us, Lord, so that we do not fall short of all that is in your heart.

 

Aristotle: Holiness Without a Mediator

(Before I jump into this, let me qualify this post. Aristotle might have been an atheist. Or, he might have simply believed in a god similar to what you find in modern deism. However, in the passage below, he writes as if he might share the religious views of the common people in ancient Greece. Whatever the case may be, I am only sharing a few thoughts that I had in response to the specific passage below. Regarding his religious views at large, I can’t really comment.)

I am currently reading Aristotle’s view on friendship in Book VIII of the Nicomachean Ethics. He discussed three different types of friendship as well as a host of other topics. It is an extremely enjoyable read and quite beneficial for anyone wanting to reflect upon the nature of friendship or the type of friend they want to be. By reading, you can peer into the mirror and consider whether you are a good friend. In addition, reading the book is like sitting at the feet of Aristotle and allowing him to speak into our lives (including our friendships). As Rene Descartes once wrote, reading books written by great minds in the past is like sitting at a table with them and letting them mentor us.

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In my reading today, this is the passage from Aristotle’s notes on friendship that I found interesting in relation to the holiness of God. Aristotle writes:

This becomes clear if there is a great interval in respect of virtue or vice or wealth or anything else between the parties; for then they are no longer friends, and do not even expect to be so. And this is most manifest in the case of the gods; for they surpass us most decisively in all good things. But it is clear also in the case of kings; for with them, too, men who are much their inferiors do not expect to be friends; nor do men of no account expect to be friends with the best or wisest men. In such cases it is not possible to define exactly up to what point friends can remain friends; for much can be taken away and friendship remain, but when one party is removed to a great distance, as God is, the possibility of friendship ceases.*

When I read this passage, my immediate thought was “His view regarding the virtue of the gods is very similar to the view that Christians hold regarding God’s holiness.” Let me explain. The main point that Aristotle is making in this passage is that friends cease to be friends when they differ significantly in virtue, vice, or wealth. Though this is not true 100% of the time, I do think that his observation is valid to some degree. He then provides evidence for his view by writing that we see this principle at play in another area, namely, the lack of friendship between the Greeks and the gods because of the disparity in virtue between the two parties. In other words, the disparity between the imperfection of human beings and the virtue, or excellence, of the gods is too great to allow for friendship.

As a follower of Christ, I find this extremely interesting from a theological standpoint. This is very similar to what Christians believe. Because of the holiness and perfection of the one true God, sinful humanity cannot call him “friend.” However, contrary to Aristotle, there is an additional theological piece to the puzzle in Christianity that leads to an altogether different conclusion. What is this piece? Jesus Christ in his specific role as mediator of the New Covenant.  Whereas Aristotle’s view ended with there being no fellowship due to the perfection of the gods and the imperfection of human beings, Christianity teaches that friendship is still possible because of what God has done on our behalf. Christ the mediator has come (i.e. incarnation), died (i.e crucifixion), and rose from the dead (i.e. resurrection) so that we could, by grace and through faith, receive God’s forgiveness without having any merit of our own. God did it all and we simply have to say “yes.”

So while Aristostle and Christians both embrace the theological notion that perfection and imperfection cannot cohabitate, this is not where the story ends in the Christian faith. God comes. God dies. Gods rises from the dead. Christ takes all of the sinful imperfection upon himself so that when someone places their trust in his life, death, and resurrection, they are forgiven and justified, paving the way for God to see the perfection of Christ and not the imperfection of sin when he looks upon that new, born-again child.

For Aristotle, the disparity between perfection and imperfection concludes with separation. According to Christianity, it concludes an offer to receive the needed perfection from another so that we can be friends with God.

 


*Excerpt From: Aristotle. “Nicomachean Ethics.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/nicomachean-ethics/id378246206?mt=11