Monday, March 30, 2009

March 15, 2009: A Survey of Revelation - Part 2

Mark 16:9-20 Available Online

For those who might be interested, I have made available my paper on the ending of Mark and the textual issues there. You can download it by clicking here. I encourage anyone interested to read it and think about the issues involved. But it should be noted that the paper was for a Greek class and therefore includes much about Greek, Greek grammar, without English transliterations.

Here is my basic argument:

1. There are a number of different endings to Mark

  • Shorter Ending: includes additional words of Jesus to his disciples. concluding with "the sacred and imperishable message of eternal salvation."
  • Freer Logion: this includes 89 additional words inbetween 16:14-15. The translation reads, "And they excused themselves, saying, ‘This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits. Therefore reveal your righteousness now’ - thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, ‘The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was handed over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness that is in heaven,’"
  • Traditional Ending - these include 16:9-20 as it is found in the King James Version and most other versions. Most modern versions footnote, bracket, italicize, or make some other markings noting the textual issue.
  • Short Ending - Mark ends at 16:8

Each of these have their problems:

  • Shorter Ending - this doesn't sound like Mark and very few ancient manuscripts include this ending.
  • Freer Logion - very few reliable, major manuscripts include this text. Furthermore, like the Shorter Ending, it does not sound like Mark
  • Traditional Ending - I do not believe that this is original. First, these verses are ending in the best manuscripts. Although many reliable manuscripts include them, the best do not. Secondly, internal evidence speaks against it. For example, within these 12 verses, Mark introduces 14 new words that he had not used before. Likewise, the transition from vs. 8 and 9 is awkward; note the change in main character from Mary Magdalene to Jesus. Finally, these verses seem more like a summary of the other 3 Gospels than authentic Marcian.
  • Short Ending - I believe that this was the actual ending, although it creates some problems. For example, no work in ancient Greek writings ends with the word "gar" meaning "for." Furthermore, vs. 8 ends with the women fleeing in fear, rather than rejoicing or a commission as in the other Gospels.

I hope this helps as we think about this text.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Weekly Recommendation: New Testament Textual Criticism

After Wednesday Nights Bible study, I've been thinking about resources on textual criticism that would be helpful. It should be stated from the outset that textual criticism is a difficult subject and discipline. The goal is to figure out what the apostles actually wrote. If you are interested in learning more about textual criticism, I recommend the book, "New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide" by David Alan Black. I read this whenever I took my Greek Syntax class and I highly recommend it.

I have written a review for it. It is easy to read, brief, and doesn't try to make things harder than they need to be. However, if you have very little background into this study, then regardless of who teaches or writes on the subject, it will be very difficult.

And since we're talking about textual criticism, here is your homework assignment:

Are these texts original or were they added at a later date? We will talk about it next Wednesday. Enjoy!

  • Mark 16:9-20
  • John 7:53-8:11

"Forgive Them, For They Know Not What They Do" - A Lesson on Forgiveness

Perhaps many of you remember the shooting that took place a few years ago where the senior pastor was shot and killed before the very eyes of his congregation. Since those events, the pastors family have reached out to the gunman offering forgiveness and praying that he will embrace the good news of Jesus Christ.

At this point, I have to admit that I don't know if I would be so bold, so . . . godly. Could I ever forgive and even pray for the one who killed my spouse? I have a lot to learn here.

But as we continue to march through the final week in the life of Jesus, this story reminds me of one of Jesus' seven statements on the cross, "forgive them for they know not what they do." Imagine, praying for forgiveness of your own executionors. It really puts things into perspective doesn't it? If Christ, and this wife, can forgive so much, how could I not forgive so little?

Who do you need to forgive today?

Billy Clyde is Out!

It is days like this that I am grateful to be a Louisville fan . . . until football season :o) I'm sure everyone knows that Billy Gillispie has been fired as UK head coach. Whose next?

In other news, Louisville plays tonight in the Sweet 16 against the Arizona Wildcats (remember 1998 UK fans?). And since UK fans don't have anything to do, you can watch your former coach.

I just had too! :o)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

March Madness is Here: I Just Couldn't Resist

Since March Madness is upon us and Kentucky fans are going mad because their team didn't make it, I thought I would post the one memory that Kentucky fans wish to forget. Enjoy!!

Look on the bright side UK fans, U of L was in the NIT just a few years ago. Now look at them: Big East Champs and the number 1 team in the nation. And we didn't fire our coach. There is hope for you yet! :o)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Botched Joke

Here is the joke that I messed up in Sunday's message:

Two men died and meet Peter at the Pearly gates. Peter looked at the two men and said, "there is only room for one. Which of you two is more humble?"

Ha Ha . . . I guess :o)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Weekly Recommendation: "Twelve Ordinary Men"

This week, I want to recommend one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, Dr. John MacArthur. The book is called, "Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness and What He Wants to Do with You." MacArthur traces the history, Biblical account, ministry, life, and death of each of the twelve disciples their triumphs and failures, the good and the bad. To read a more thorough review of the book, click here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Week Prayer for North American Missions: Hostility In America

As we finish our series on the week of Prayer for North American missions, I want us to focus on a tragedy that took place on Sunday morning. In Illinois, a Baptist pastor was shot to death during the early morning church service. Investigators are still looking into the case and will be charging the murderer. Before the man could, what seemed to be, commit suicide, some of the members of the church subdued the man, but by then, the pastor had already died. One bullet struck the pastors Bible.

As we have already seen, hostility and persecution happen around the world and America is no different. Although such an attack, at this magnitude, is rare and surprising, what a testimony it is to be willing to die for the Lord. Let us pray for this pastors family and let us pray for the church as they have an amazing opportunity to illustrate the gospel and bring more to Christ.
During tragedies like this, we oftentimes find ourselves asking why has God allowed such a thing. We must always return to seeking God's glory. The history of Church is full of such tragedies. Much blood has been spilt on account of being a follower of Christ. However, God has used such tragedies to further the gospel. So although we weep and pray for healing and comfort for the family and church for this pastor, let us pray that the gospel might flourish, a revival might begin, and ultimately, that God will be glorified.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Week of Prayer For North American Missions: Pray Specifically

Throughout Scripture we are commanded to pray. But oftentimes whenever we pray, we sound more like Ms. America than a genuine prayer warrior. We pray for world peace and for healing, but rarely do we ever pray with specificity. Now I know that God knows what we are talking about whenever we pray vaguely, but Scripture tells us to pray specifically. Perhaps the best example of this comes from the letters of Paul where he says that he is pray for certain persons and situations and he names them. Furthermore, Jesus prays for specific things (such as taking the cup away from Him in the garden).

With that in mind, I want us to pray for specific missionaries. The North American Mission Board have named a number of missionaries in whom they want us to pray specifically for. To see the pictures of these missionaries, follow the link:

:-- Troy and Jamae Smith of Portland, Ore., who work with people lost in a lifestyle of alcohol, drugs and other addictions through SAFE (Setting Addicts Free Eternally) Ministries, a Christ-centered recovery program.

-- Grace and John McGraw of Birmingham, Ala., who direct an after-school tutoring and GED program to inner-city children through M-Power Ministries.

-- Carlos and Cristina De La Barra of Louisville, Ky., who help start churches among the Hispanic population in Kentucky, many of whom are migrant workers.

-- Dwight and Judy Huffman of Cochrane, Canada, who assist in the church-planting work of 123 Southern Baptist churches located in an area of Canada equivalent in size to the lower 48 states.

-- Derek and Kimberly Spain of Lake Placid, N.Y. The site of the 1980 Winter Olympics is the backdrop for the Spains who do resort missions among tourists, workers and athletes residing in the area.

-- Mitch and Sandra Bryant of Fallon, Nev., associational missionaries in the non-church culture of west-central Nevada. The Lahontan Baptist Association covers 27,000 square miles through five counties and includes 16 churches and five missions.

-- Terrell and Vickie O’Brien of Lander, Wyo., Mission Service Corps missionaries serving Warm Valley Baptist Church in Pavillion. More churches are needed to reach people who live in isolated areas of Wyoming, the least populated state in the nation.

-- Jonathan Pettigrew of Beech Grove, Ind., who works with students attending Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis through a new Baptist Campus Ministry organization. He is the only campus minister at a college of more than 20,000 students.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Week of Prayer For North American Missions: From the President

Since I accidently forgot to post yesterday, I am posting two today. This time, I simply want to encourage you to watch a video posted by the President of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. I haven't had the chance to see all of this, but I did find it interesting. Here is the story that went along with it.

You’ve probably experienced it. The storm rolled in without warning. You made a dash for inside. Maybe you were too late and got soaked. Maybe you made it with seconds to spare. Either way, you moved with urgency, knowing what would happen if you didn’t!

Try to imagine the consequences that face more than 251 million people in North America who are lost. Very few would debate that North America is a mission field. Open today's newspaper or your Web browser to a news page, and you'll see evidence of lives in sin and sorrow.

People need Jesus Christ! Jesus died on the cross for each person living in this land, but so many have never heard or responded to the good news of Jesus Christ. Many are putting their trust in money and in man, and are learning the disappointment of doing so. They are truly caught in a great storm—hopeless—unless we tell them about Jesus and they decide to run into His loving arms. Christians know our trust and hope is in Jesus alone. We must sow down the gospel together to ensure that there is a harvest of souls won for Christ.

The task before us requires urgency. No procrastination. No excuses. Just bold and determined dedication in word and deed. This is a spiritual battle that we cannot lose!

Jesus gives us the mandate to go, but He also says we need to do it together. We must sow together for harvest, sharing the gospel with everyone, everywhere, and by every means possible. More than 5,600 North American missionaries are working alongside your church in the field, sowing with a passion and commitment to serve Christ in all they do. They are reaping a great harvest; however, more missionaries are needed if we are to fulfill the Great Commission.

Your generous gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® allow us to saturate the fields with seeds of the gospel for God’s glory. Our goal this year is $65 million—a truly God-size goal, but one that can be reached as Southern Baptists see the mission field that is North America and join us in living with urgency, sowing together for harvest.

As you participate in this North American Missions Emphasis, I urge you to do more than just watch and listen. Please pray fervently for North American missionaries. Please give generously to North American missions through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. Please join us this urgent mission of sowing together for harvest!

Week of Prayer for North American Missions: Youth On a Mission

One of the things I really enjoyed about youth ministry were mission trips. I loved getting my hands dirty and seeing young people do the same thing. When I served as youth pastor, we did a number of mission trips. None of them were big and none of them were out of state or even out of the country. They didn't need to be. There were needs right here in our own neighborhood and state that God had called us to meet.

But then I got to thinking, why only youth? Why is it typically a "youth" thing to go take a week or a weekend off and serve somewhere and get dirty? And so we encouraged and invited any and every adult interested to join us as we helped others in any way we can. What we witnessed was a church becoming involved in something bigger than itself. I could tell many stories of how God provided and showed up for these events, but space nor time would allow. But the principle remains; why not everybody?

Sadly, too many in our churches consider service, missions, and hands-on evangelism to be only for young people. Why is that? As if the gospel being illustrated is only for a certain age group. This week, as we continue to pray for North American missions, let us not forget to pray that God will move us, even if by force, to get out of our church doors and live the gospel. What areas of need are in your own community? State? Nation? World? What are you doing about it?

Furthermore, I find it significant that it is young people who are oftentimes portrayed as rolling up their sleeves and helping others. There is great hope and God's glory is seen whenever young people take their faith to the streets. Let this be a reminder that God has come into the world to save it, and we, regardless of age, are called to share that message with everyone, even if it means getting dirty. God has called us all to ministry. So as we pray for our missionaries, let us be thankful for their willingness to go, and why your at it, consider going somewhere yourself. You might want to begin by asking your youth group where they are going next.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Week of Prayer For North American Missions: Is There Nothing Again Gong To Be Done?

"Is there nothing again going to be done sir?" With those words the modern mission movement was launched. William Carey, the father of the modern mission movement, was called by God to spread the gospel to those who had not heard the message of the good news of Christ. After presenting his case for world missions, Carey called for his congregation to do something. As the service seemed to be coming to a close, Carey looked at the leaders and asked that question: "is there nothing again going to be done sir?"

Carey was driven with a desire to see the lost redeemed. Though he faced many difficulties and hardships, Carey persevered and thanks to his dedication and service, many were saved, Bibles were translated, and the message of the cross was and continues to be spread around the world.

Carey's question still applies today. Are we to continue to do nothing about the lost souls around us? Will we continue to ignore the calling that God has given us? Will we continue to think that giving is enough? That praying is enough? While at the same time ignoring the world of sin, death, and hell around us? The world is desperate for the gospel and too often we sigh.

Carey was a man who had no excuse to give to God. He refused to let expenses, time, energy, education, or ability above the calling God had on his life. Because of his faithfulness to his Savior, many are worshiping at the foot of the throne with him today. Praise God for men like Carey!

So, will we again do nothing? Or will we do something about the lost world around us? Praying for North American missions is important. But giving lip service is not enough. Where is God calling you too? Are you being faithful? Or are you doing nothing again sir?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Week of Prayer for North American Missions: When the Going Gets Tough

As we continue to pray for North American missions this week, we must discuss a sad, but true reality regarding the gospel and missions: hostility and persecution. The book of Acts records the first Christian martyr, Stephen, a deacon, but he is not the first to face hostility because of his allegiance to the gospel. Let us not forget that Christ Himself warned that if they persecuted Him, they will persecute His followers. Furthermore, He adds that it is not us that the world hates, but Him. These are both comforting and yet frightening.

This week, we need to pray for the safety, security, success, faithfulness, and perseverance of missionaries and believers throughout the world. America is an unusual spot in the world when it comes to the Christian faith. For the most part, Christians are free to worship and proselytize. But the rest of the world does not enjoy such luxuries.

Many in the world today are on the front lines of spreading the gospel and their earthly reward is hatred and animosity. Thank God for such believers! Rather than feel sorry for them, let us rejoice that God has found them faithful. At the same time, let us not get comfortable in our padded pews with our cheap and easy grace and think that this is what it is like to be faithful to the Lord. Rather, while we are safe and free, we should be praying for those who aren't; those on the front lines reaching the world for Christ fulfilling the Great Commissin.

At the same time, let us make ourselves ready. How strong and faithful will we be if we are ever persecuted, hated, ignored, or even killed? Will we persevere to the end, or will the moment things get tough will we abandon Christ? How faithful we are in the midst of trial and ridicule is what proves our faith. If any of us were to face such hate, would God find us faithful, or would God find us as cowards? Sadly, many Christians are ready to ban ship whenever our marriage struggles or the bills begin to stack. If we can't handle everyday life, how could we ever handle the offense of the gospel?

Today, let us pray for the safety, security, and success of our missionaries and believers around the world. Let us pray that freedom will thrive so that the gospel might be more readily preached. But ultimately, let us pray that the gospel spread like a wildfire regardless of governments, laws, politics, economics, cultural norms, traditions or any other hindrances to the gospel. Let us not forget, that the blood of the martyrs can still be the seed of the Church. Though many might suffer, the gospel can and will still spread to the glory of God.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Week of Prayer for North American Missions: The Heat is (Not) On

Our heat stopped working last night. And it just so happened that it was one of the coldest, or at least it felt like it, nights of the year thus far. I thought winter was almost over, but last night I was reminded that it is still here. We woke up at 4 in the morning freezing and our 4 1/2 month old son was crying just as cold. The three of us spent the rest of the night under the covers in my wife's and I bedroom under a number of blankets.

I am no mechanic and could not figure out what was wrong. I did know that we had plenty of propane still in the tank. Like a dunce, I kept going downstairs to check on everything as if I knew what I was doing.

Coming morning, we called for help and help came. Thankfully, as I type these words, I am warm, and so is the rest of the family. Life is good again.

But all day today, I couldn't help but thinking the spiritual aspect of this event. My family were hopeless doing the best we could and yet it wasn't enough. No matter how many covers we threw over ourselves, we were still cold. We even put mittens on our sons hands to keep them warm (he does not like to have his arms swaddled or under any covering whatsoever!). I certainly wasn't much of a help to my family. We were desperate and alone.

It wasn't until the repair men came to fix the problem. At that point, we returned to the way things used to be. But it took someone else, someone prepared and qualified for the job. The harder I tried to fix the problem, the worse the problem got.

Salvation is much the same.

We as sinners can try all we want, but we will never fix the problem we face: estrangement from a holy and righteous God. Things were going great in the Garden, and then we messed it up. Ever since then, the history of man has been one attempt after another trying to fix "the problem." We turn to politics, law, liberty, selfishness, money, anger, pride, greed, religion, community, family, friends, philosophy, education, and anything else we can. But they all fail in the end.

No matter how hard we try, we can never solve the problem ourselves. We must, therefore, rely on someone else. Someone from the outside. Someone who is capable to fix the problem. And when it comes to our fallen nature and our rebellion against our Creator, Jesus entered the scene to fix the problem.

Christ was fully God and fully Man. Therefore, He qualified as a perfect sacrifice. He was perfect and without blemish. Therefore, He was not tainted with our problem. Christ came down on our behalf, dying and paying for a punishment that should have been ours. He took upon Himself our sins so that one day, we might return to what we once were.

That's the gospel.

This week, as we continue to pray for missions let us not forget that one undeniable truth, the gospel must be preached without compromise, without watering it down, and without shame or fear. The gospel is the only hope that we have. Apart from it we are lost, hopeless, and left to destitute trapped in our game of "I-can-do-it-by-myself-ism.

Therefore, let us pray, first and foremost, the gospel. Let us pray that our children will grow up and obey the gospel. Let us pray that we will be faithful to the gospel. Let us pray that our culture and each individual in our culture will embrace the gospel. And let us pray that each of us, including the missionaries we pray specifically for, remain faithful without diluting to the gospel of Christ.

But without it, we will all be left out in the cold.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Week of Prayer for North American Missions: Acts 1:8 - The Commission To Where To Begin

As today marks the kick off for prayer for North American missions, I want us to begin by going to Scripture. Most of us are familiar with the Great Commission passages. Each Gospel contains such a passage following the resurrection. Now that the power of sin and death had been conquered, on account of Christ's substitutionary death, believers have been commissioned by Christ to spread the gospel to the whole world.

The most famous of these Great Commission passages is Matthew 28:19-20: Go, therefore, and preach the gospel, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age."

So we got the message, right? Go, baptize the converted, and train disciples (so that they might go, baptize the converted, and train disciples, and so forth). But, where do I begin?

Luke wrote both the Gospel that bears his name and Acts. Both books describe the final words and ascension of Christ. One of the last things he said was, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Here, too, is a Great Commission passage, but this one is different. The previous Commissions tells us what to do, Acts tells what how to do it. Acts 1:8 serves as both an outline of the book of Acts and as a model for missions today.

Most of us whenever we think of missions, we think of foreign missionaries. I think of the missionaries and evangelists I have met overseas in Niger, Africa and Trinidad and Tobago. Here were men, women, and families, dedicated to the spreading the gospel to unreached people groups. I had the pleasure of evangelizing in a village in Africa that had never heard the gospel. The International Mission Board had just gained accessed to that village a few weeks prior to our arrival and by God's grace, people continue to come to faith there!

But missions includes more than foreign missionaries. We oftentimes think of evangelists. There is no better known evangelist in the world than Billy Graham who has preached the gospel virtually to the whole world. He is more than just the "Nation's Pastor," but primarily God's ambassador to the nations. None of us are Billy Graham and few of us are called and dedicated to vocational evangelism.

But we are all missionaries and evangelists in some way. Knowing that God is both Sovereign and Provident reminds us that it is not by accident we are where we are right now. It is not by accident that you are reading these words, have the job you have, have the family you have, and have experienced the things you have. God has been with you all along, even if you are new to the faith.

If your like me, I look at Billy Graham and foreign missionaries and think, "I'll never be like that. That's not me. God will never use me." But that is in effect saying to God, "you made a mistake. You overlooked me." That is not true. God has placed you where you are right now for a purpose. Think for a moment the numerous opportunities we have everyday to fulfill the Great Commission.

When I was a youth pastor, I present the youth a way to reach 50 people a day with the gospel for an entire semester. All they had to do was sit in a certain seat in each class room in which they surround themselves with someone who is unconverted and unchurched. Imagine, 50 people a day. And those are youth! How many does God place in your lifetime?

Maybe you should begin in Jerusalem and stop thinking about Samaria. God may not have called you to foreign missions. He has rather, perhaps, called you to local missions: evangelism to your family, friends, coworkers, boss, and wherever else He has you.

Imagine, God has entrusted the gospel with you. Are you going? Or are you sitting?