Monday, October 5, 2015

Umpqua Community College

It was a small town in Oregon that where a mass shooting occurred. It wasn't a place that was expected to be dangerous. Everyone felt very safe. And then the disaster came. And as the disaster came, now no one anyone feels safe. Even though they are just as safe now as they were before, public perception of danger has increased substantially. 

Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families of these victims, and for all those who are wounded. Undergoing this much trauma is not going to be easy. The road to normalcy is long, and tracked with the knowledge that things will not return to as normal as one would hope. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Introduction to the Arimaic Section (Daniel 2-7)

I do thus verily apologize for the complete lack of post on Monday. I have an excuse, but I assume that you won't want to hear it, so if that assumption is true, you can skip to the next paragraph. So, I had a debate tournament this weekend, and got behind in schoolwork for the first time in my college career. So I didn't post on my blog. Probably justifiable. But I have caught up by now and can reenter my responsibilities.

So today, we enter into Daniel 2, Let's begin with reading the first three verses,
"And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream."

Then in verse 4, we read the Scripture state that, "Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack."

Syriack is the King James way of saying Aramaic. And at this point until the end of chapter 7, the book of Daniel is written in Aramaic. At first, it is easy to write this off as simply useless trivia, but wait one moment. We believe that the Bible is written more purposefully than this.

If you are writing, you don't usually change the language in which you are writing. Even if you happen to know multiple languages, you are not likely to suddenly change from one language into another. Indeed, you are not likely to change even from one piece of jargon to another at any given time within the same writing.

So why does this particular book switch into Aramaic when that is generally considered bad literary form? It is not enough to write this off as unimportant because the author of the book clearly made this decision for a reason. We need to understand what that reason is.

So let's remember from two weeks ago, the background of the time. Those throughout the world are convinced because of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem that the Babylonians god at their weakest are strongest than God is at His strongest.

We then remember that this book is all about proving that the God of Israel really is stronger than all other gods, and indeed that there are no other gods. In Hebrew, this book communicates to the Israelites, but basically that only communicates to the Israelites.

Historical background (once more from Dr. Miller's Old Testament class): at this time, the primary language of almost all the world is Aramaic. So communicating in Aramaic is to communicate to the rest of the world. Chapters 2-7 are a section of the book of Daniel, which are written so as to communicate to the whole world.

So what does the Lord want to say to the entire wor? Well, let's look a moment at the structure of this Aramaic section.

Chapter 2: Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, interpreted by Daniel and Daniel alone sharing God's power over the nations.
Chapter 3: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago travel into a fiery furnace, but God shows his power in delivering them.
Chapters 4-5:  God shows His power over individual rulers by tearing Nebuchadnezzar down to the level of a beast, and then putting the writing on the wall to end Belshazzar's reigns
Chapter 6: God shows His power in delivering His servant Daniel.
Chapter 7: God shows his power over that nations by Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the statue.

You might notice a few similarities here. Indeed, this structure is very chiastic.

And in a chiasm, the most important part if put in the middle of the structure. So the Lord seems to be stressing that He is more powerful than the most powerful of rulers in the world. All else doesn't stand; the Lord is God and He is sovereign over all.

The Aramaic section is a powerful section of the book and honestly the reason why I decided to do this expositional analysis on the book of Daniel. I look forward to looking at you next week.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Eating Vegetables to Get Fat (Daniel 1)

Last week, I announced that I was going to start a series with the book of Daniel. This is the least-thought through decision I have had in a while, but it seems pretty exciting to me right now, so let's go for this.

After detailing clearly that the book of Daniel seems to be about the question of God's sovereignty at a time when His sovereignty can be specifically challenged and questioned because it appears that the gods of Babylonian have bested Him. The book looks at how that God has given Israel into the hand of Israel. No need to fret about Babylonian control - God knows what He's doing.

So how does this work from the very beginning of the book? The very first chapter details one of the more popular events of this time period in the Bible. The fact that a few teenagers refused to eat drink and wine from the king, and instead opted for vegetables. What in the world does this have to do with the power of God exactly?

Well, let's take the text from the beginning. So in verses 3-4, the king is bringing up a whole bunch of skillful Israelites to serve as advisers for the king. This is a common practice at the time, where conquering nations will just take advantage of the young crop of skills that they just conquered.

Verse 5 though mentions a very specific regimen of food that has been specifically designed to prepare them to come before the king. This is the very regimen that "Daniel and his fellows" would not agree to eat because they had purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves with the portion of the king's meat (verse 8).

The reason why this would be defiling is unclear. It seems unlikely that it was because it went against Levitical laws as there was never a prohibition against wine. Sacrificing to idols is possible because in some instances wine was actually sacrificed to idols. It could have been as simple as allegiance to the king. Really, our answers are all kinda speculative, which means that our answer is not actually important. If this detail mattered the Lord would have made it clear what He wanted us to see.

But when Daniel and his fellows reject the food, there is a very specific response. The eunuch seems a bit afraid. Daniel 1:10 explains,
"And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king."

Hey, apparently, Daniel's suggestions about eating pulse and water is not a very favorable position. It is supposed to leave them to be thin and sickly after this time. That seems to be an indication that maybe this isn't a health plan, guys! It's not a recommendation for our diets!

But what is more important about this, is that when Daniel and his fellows are actually healthier, or more specifically, "fairer and fatter in all flesh" after ten days, then there must be something supernatural about this particular occasion. Maybe the Lord just blessed His servants for their obedience to Him. Hmmmm... Strange.

And then we get a brief overview of the success that Daniel and his fellows have in Babylon. Because God is not done blessing His people. And you know, He has the power to do that.

Maybe we shouldn't be concerned that we're under Babylonian control. Or put in your own life, God is in control, regardless of whatever situation you are in. You have no need to fret, God will continue to bless you, though not always in circumstance. Just trust the Lord.

Apparently I forgot to schedule this to get posted. Which stinks. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Importance of Prayer

I have a crazy proposition. The number one important thing in the life of any Christian is not how kind he is, how much he spreads the gospel, or how involved he is with church. No, I believe that the most important part of a Christian's life is prayer.

(Now I know that's not that radical. But let me pretend it is.) Here's my argument. Jesus made it clear in the gospels what the greatest commandment is. And there were lots of good ones to choose from. But he chose this one,
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."

 So, it's a strange thing to me to say, but one of the best express love or to generate love is to communicate! And we communicate of course through prayer. My love for God only stands strong when I am praying constantly and readily for the sake.

I could also make the argument (because it's true) that we can do none of the service that we are required to do, absent God. And we get that help via prayer.

So prayer is important and you should probably do it every day. More than just once. Here's some thoughts on how to make that happened (ironed out with help from two amazing friends of mine):
1. Plan an extra long time to pray in the morning, or whenever you do your devotions. Make sure you don't have to rush through your prayer.
2. In that time, pray with purpose. Consider creating a prayer journal. Document your requests, and God's answers, in an organized way. My prayer journal is set up like this:
Date          Request                          Date          Answer
9/20/15     Blog Post Idea                9/20/15      Prayer
3. Ask people if they have anything you could pray about. This gives you further things to bring to God and helps make your prayer less self-oriented. It also helps you fulfill the second greatest commandment - love one another.
4. If you have time alone, don't just talk to yourself. Talk to God. It will fill your time nicely.
5. Put up something that will remind you to pray in a place that you frequent often. Whether that be an office or your bedroom, or a car. Whether the reminder be worship music, verses on a whiteboard, or a prayer wall. Put up a reminder. We're carnal creatures. We're going to forget. So let's make it harder for ourselves to do so.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Background on the Book of Daniel

There's an interesting book of the Bible out there. It's called Daniel, and I think we should begin at the beginning of this book and see what some it might mean. What could the theme of this book be?

Well, let's first look at the context. When was this book written? It seems pretty clear that the book was written around the time of the deportation into Babylon. The first chapter covers indeed the historical background of that very time, as "Daniel and his fellows" are taken into the king's court.

Dr. Miller in my OT class last year explained this context decently well. In Old Testament times, it was commonly accepted that there was a supernatural force in the world. Indeed there are many gods in the world. And these gods are incredibly nationalist and tied to military strength.

The gods are further most powerful closest to their own temple, according to the theology of the day. So the Babylonian god is going to have its weakest sphere of influence near Jerusalem, while the actual God would have been thought to be at His strongest when the Babylonians took the Temple.

This means that public perception in Babylon is that their gods at their weakest are stronger than the God of Israel at His strongest.

We of course know this not to be true, and that God let the Babylonians take the Israelites into his hand because the Israelites needed to be punished. But that sentiment is not exactly easy to get across to the Israelites or the Babylonian people. And that is where the book of Daniel comes in.

This is not just a reading based on history either. It is pretty clear from the text of Daniel that the theme of the book is simply the sovereignty of God. And that is obvious from the very first few verses, which read simply,
"In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god."

Before we even begin to get into the narrative text, the book of Daniel confirms that the Lord "gave" Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. It was not that he was outgunned by a stronger force. The rest of the book, with the visions, the miraculous deliveries, and the miraculous desire of teenagers to eat vegetables, all point to that same theme.

And as I decide to embark on an exposition journey with you - a pseudo-series on the book of Daniel, we will see how all of these accounts point to the fact that God alone is sovereign over world affairs.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Immigration Crisis: What You Need to Know

Refugees from Syria are walking on foot to get to Germany because Germany is the one European state that seems excited for more immigrants. This is perhaps because their population is currently declining while the population of many other European nations is rising.

England offered up asylum for 20,000 people. Germany laughed and said they were ready for 500,000 every year for several years. Well done, UK. Your number looks kinda small. Apparently Germany doesn't need any help.

Hungary has offered police escort for the migrants on their border to help them get to Germany and Austria.

Perhaps what you really need to know is that these migrants have been travelling for a while, even though the media has just reported it. (Thank you photojournalists for making this a news story in the first place.) They are running from Syria and the unrest there for their very lives.

What they desire is peace, protection, and security. Maybe even a chance to start a new life outside of a civil war. And that's what you need to know.

In other news, I said the words "Civil War," so now I'm thinking of Captain America 3.

Also, how about them Bengals? Then again, it was the Raiders. Time will tell.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Interviewing the Bible

My apologies for the tardiness of this post. I am still a very responsible person, I swear.

So what is the focus today? I guess I could talk about what the Lord showed me about how He intends to speak with me.

I must admit to having a very interesting time in my devotions for the past few months. Reading and never getting much to write down in my journal at all. Feeling like it was simply part of a routine and nothing more. All through this time, I was thinking I should probably go deeper than just reading the words, but I never acted on this.

So, I was reading the first chapter of Acts to prepare for a Bible Study Discussion in my hall here, and I realized something I did differently when I read for the Bible Study as opposed to my devotion. I interrogated the text. I asked why the author felt the need to include that information at that given time.

And I had things to write down and things to apply to my life. The text meant something, and it was all because of a few questions here and there to be more than just reading the Bible. Astonishing! Truly astonishing!

Ok, maybe it's not astonishing, but it is pretty cool, so you know what I realized at that time. That if I really wanted the Lord to show me something through my daily devotions, I probably ought to prepare myself to see it by actively searching for it. So I have. And that has been stellar. Why I ever stopped doing this is beyond me in the first place.

Needless to say, you'll probably get more true biblical exposition in the near future on this blog.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Cake, Pseudoevents, and Songs

What is the meaning of birthdays? When I turn 20, am I suddenly more mature than when I was 19? After all, at the end of the day, I am no longer a teenager. So that must mean something.

I guess birthdays are what communication theorists (and probably some other discipline too, since communication is so interdisciplinary) call pseudoevents. Events that don't actually change a person, but that changes the status of a person.

A wedding does not change a person, but two people start single and leave a married couple. On Saturday, I was a teenager and now I am not. I have a change of status, but I myself have not changed overly much over the last few days.

Of course, I guess I am just really enjoying the fact that my birthday brings me certain attention and things, and also getting embarrassed at it as well. My Sunday School class sang to me. I don't remember the last time my Sunday School class sang to someone... That's weird.

But that's ok. I got some cake and generally simulated the economy. My sister finished her series of birthday/Christmas gifts with The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Special Extended Edition. 

And I'm a year older. I love the opportunity to celebrate and everything, but can we just acknowledge again how weird it is to celebrate the day of one's birth? Hey, this is the day that you were emancipated from the womb. Have some cake! Yeah...

But I like cake, so it's all good. Also, people set off fireworks today, just for my birthday. (and that random holiday that today actually is). Hey, happy labor day, everyone!

Friday, September 4, 2015

What am I to do with My Life?

Sometimes, you just get overwhelmed with schoolwork, obligations that keep you from sitting to work on it, and a nice little illness that makes you feel so incredibly weak. At that moment, what exactly would you do?

Well, let's see. I seem to be pushing on here in the honors lounge trying to finish up schoolwork that is needed to be done before tomorrow because it still needs to be done. Also struggling to find a reason to stay awake. And enjoying my new Chromebook that I bought because I couldn't wait for my laptop anymore. Of course, that time without my laptop would be another reason why I am overwhelmed with working.

I'm kinda having a bad night, and this from someone that is usually so far ahead on schoolwork that he never has any problems. But I guess the Lord is making me helpless and weak at this point so I can learn to rely on him. So what am I going to do? Right now, I am going to pray. And then pray some more.

And then I will get to work and do things and make sure that I survive. And then go to bed.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Hodge-Podge of Randomness

As I opened this new post, I noticed my serve told me I have written 221 posts, and I was like, "Yay, I like that number." Now hopefully, my audience is geeky enough to realize why that is a big deal.

But this is not a day to talk about the virtues of the world's favorite highly functioning sociopath because he actually isn't very virtuous. Oh, and it has nothing to do with politics and culture in America today.

In other news, actually relevant to American culture, the sport of legalized violence is starting up in two weeks. AND I AM SUPER EXCITED! Because I like football despite the fact that it really kind of is that whole legalized violence thing. Yeah, whatever. Also, concussions are kinda bad. Really bad. But I refuse to play it for that reason.

Of course, that doesn't mean I'm free from concussions. I have seen a member of my debate team last year who got a concussion while on a debate tournament. Of course, that was because she was recovering from a concussion, and we had an fender-bender. The whiplash did not do her well.

Now if that doesn't float your boat, TV series news seasons should begin pretty shortly, and I think that's pretty swell. It's time for another season of Castle, Doctor Who, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Doctor Who. Oh, I already said that one didn't I? If anyone has any idea on how I could get my hands on the first three episodes of Agent Carter, I would greatly appreciate it.

In a completely different section of the world, the presidential campaign continues to bore its way on. I know, I'm not supposed to have this attitude as the beacon of stay informed at all costs, but it's far too early to know anything that's going on in the race. And I really want to get more involved when I have to worry about fewer candidates.

But there are some interesting tidbits. First, South Carolina is requiring those on the primary ballot to rule out running as a third party. A very good political move for the Republicans; this ensures that Trump must agree to support the GOP nomination if when he doesn't win the candidacy. Of course, one can and maybe should question the legitimacy of keeping someone off the ballot as a form of political manipulation.

Also, why is no one covering the Democratic race yet? It seems that even as Hillary Clinton's credibility with the media consistently gets worse, no one wants to cover any of the better options (admittedly many of those aren't better options, but there are definitely a few) that the Democrats actually have. In a world where liberal media reigns supreme, this is actually quite shocking as it seems disadvantageous to the party's chances next November.

And finally, can we just take time to acknowledge that football season is about to start?