Back Surgery No. 4, Continued

fusionAs of 5:30 yesterday, I am home from the hospital! I can’t tell you how glad I was to roll through those doors.

I’m still in a good bit of pain from the surgery itself, but the pace of getting better is better than before. But I’m still having to be on the pain pills — for a little while. Hopefully, I can get off them in the next several days.

Of course, this means I can say anything on my blog and, if it’s stupid or offensive, blame the drugs. So I’ve got that going for me … Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 16:5-24 (Concluding exhortations)

Writing letter to a friend.

Paul customarily ended his letters with a series of personal notes. It was a challenge to get a letter from place to place in ancient Rome. Normally, this was done by sending a scroll with a trusted friend.

Given that letter writing was based on friendships, and how much more difficult it would be to prepare separate scrolls, the custom had evolved of combining the text into a single letter. Besides, these personal notes helped remind people that Paul was a person who loved them, not just an authority figure with a pen and parchment. Continue reading

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How to Study the Bible: The Over-Arching A-B-A’ Story

biblepage-781x1024[This is adapted from an earlier post.]

The next step in Bible study is learning to approach the scriptures with the right questions — understanding where each element of scripture is situated within God’s story.

One excellent approach is found in Scot McKnight’s latest book Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church.

McKnight points out that both the local church and academia have learned — finally — to read the Bible as story. One such story might be summarized as C-F-R-C: the story of salvation in the Bible.

(And this is very much the story as related by Scot in his excellent The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, which we covered in this series.) The story goes like this– Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 16:1-4 (On the first day of every week)


Paul has now finished the serious theological part of his epistle, and so he moves to some practical concerns.

One recurring feature of many of Paul’s letters is his collection of funds for the saints in Jerusalem. We aren’t ever told exactly why this is needed, but Paul sees this sort of inter-congregational charity as at the core of the gospel.

(1Co 16:1-4 ESV)  Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.  2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.  3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.  4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

Paul is soliciting a freewill offering, not a levy like the Temple tax. Continue reading

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How to Study the Bible: Bible Software

biblepage-781x1024I’ve alluded a few times to Bible software as a study aid, and there are just all sorts of programs out there — some free and some quite expensive.

Everyone with a smartphone or tablet has doubtlessly found the wide array of Bibles and similar resources available.

Just for example —

  • Lumina provides a free NET Bible with translator notes.
  • ESV provides a free ESV Bible.
  • BibleGateway provides several free translations and powerful search tools, as well as some out-of-copyright Bible dictionaries and commentaries.
  • The Holy Bible provides several translations, cross references, footnotes.
  • The Blue Letter Bible comes with many translations.
  • AndBible for Android users is similar to BibleGateway.

Most also provide reading plans, such as a schedule of daily Bible reading that will cover all the scriptures in a set number of years, daily devotional verses, and search features. And these are all free or very nearly so. Continue reading

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Back Surgery Number 4

fusionSo I go in for back surgery number 4 on Wednesday. I’ll be in the hospital for a couple of days — stoned on pain meds.

(I’ve loaded my iPod with “White Rabbit,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and the complete Pink Floyd.)

So I’ll be out of commission for a few days. It seems my earlier L5/L4 fusion has to be redone. The bones never fused. And so they’ll want to grab the L3 to be sure it works this time. Ugh.

Not sure how long I’ll be away from the computer, but I’ve posted several days ahead — of course, I’ve done it while needing a spinal fusion — meaning I’ve not always been in the best of moods. So you’ll understand the occasional fit of sarcasm.

If it gets too intense, well, there’s always Pink Floyd. Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 15:45-58 (O, Death, where is your victory?)

deathPaul next returns to an earlier theme, the comparison of Adam and Jesus.

(1Co 15:45 ESV) 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

Paul quotes Gen 2:7 to show the superiority of Jesus (the last Adam or last human being) as the giver of life (through the Spirit) rather than a mere recipient of life.

[Jesus] is not just a soma pneumatikon [Spiritual body] in his own right, so to speak, the first example of the large number of such beings the creator intends to make through resurrection, but he is also the one through whom the creator will accomplish this—because he is the one who, as ‘life-giving Spirit’, will perform the work of raising the dead. Genesis 2:7 is thus not so much a proof-text, more a part of the larger story which the Christian, looking at Jesus’ resurrection, can now tell; and the good news which emerges from this is that Jesus has pioneered the way into the long-awaited future, the new age which the creator has planned (verse 46). The pneumatikos [Spirit-empowered] state is not simply an original idea in the mind of the creator, from which the human race fell sadly away; this model of humanity is the future reality, the reality which will swallow up and replace merely psychikos [mortal] life.

N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003), 355. Continue reading

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How to Study the Bible: Commentaries

biblepage-781x1024For those new to serious Bible study, a “commentary” is a book that explains one or more books of the Bible in detail, generally verse by verse. Most commentaries are published as part of a set intended to cover the entire NT or entire OT or both. But many excellent commentaries are published as stand-alone volumes.

There are far too many commentaries for me to cover them all, and the quality varies from series to series, and volume to volume. But maybe I can offer some thoughts to help sort through the overwhelming amount of information contained in commentaries.

First, I do not use old, out-of-copyright commentaries. The Internet and Bible software are filled with archaic commentaries that, in their day, were excellent. But a lot happened in the last century to greatly improve Bible scholarship. For example —

* We discovered vast troves of First Century papyrus writings that shed new light on the language of the NT. Continue reading

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Bill Withers: “Grandma’s Hands”

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1 Corinthians 15:35-44 (How are the dead raised?)

deathPaul next begins to deal with much more serious objections — the sort a Greek philosopher might ask — beginning with, “With what kind of [dead] body do they come?” After all, the ancients weren’t stupid. They knew that the body rotted away. If there’s to be a resurrection, what replaces the decayed corpse? How could such a thing be re-animated?

(1Co 15:35-41 ESV) But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

Paul does not give much in the way of detail regarding our resurrection bodies. Rather, he analogizes to several things to illustrate that a body can “die” and come back in a new a better form. A grain of wheat goes into the ground and rises up a new plant. There are, he says,”heavenly bodies and earthly bodies” — and all with glory but with different kinds of glory. In short, we’ll have bodies but different kinds of bodies. Continue reading

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