Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Apocalyptic Vomit

A friend, Russ, asked me to put up a post about Revelation 3:15-16. Actually, my tenth semester of Greek I was assigned to translate the entire book of Revelation. I still wonder why the interim professor assigned this, because Revelation is easy (to translate, not understand). The grammar is simple, besides introducing some apocalyptic vocabulary, it really didn't stretch us much...but it did make me realize that anyone who thinks they can divine the future from Revelation is full of themselves.

Either way, it is a fun book. I was going to post my notes with my translation...unfortunately, there was nothing in the grammar that really shed any new light on the subject, besides one particle I'll hit on later. So I think the focus will be contextual, and due to my time and space...brief and lacking.

3:15 I know your works that they are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot.
3:16 Thus, since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth.

Growing up, this verse was used out of context (in my opinion) in sermon illustration after sermon illustration to illustrate the aspect of "being on fire for God!!!" How wrong this interpretation is! Does it even make sense? According to this shallow reading, Jesus is saying it is better to be really bad than kind of good.

What makes more sense is that this is actually a sermon illustration, so to speak. Look back over the letters to the other churches...each is riddled with allegory and irony (i.e. iron rods, clay pots, soiled clothing).

The rhetorical statement, "you are neither hot nor cold," intorduces the picture story. It has been argued that this is referencing the water supply of Laodocia as a metaphor. Neighboring city Hieropolis possesed HOT water springs as water supply, well known for their healing qualities. In fact, hieropolis was known as a health center. Neighboring city Colosse was built around COLD, fresh, sparkling spring water.

Laodocia had its water piped in from the hot springs of Denizili via aquaduct. By the time the citizens received the water, it hadn't had time to cool and was warm and gross. Excerpts from ancient literature (cf. passages from Herodotus and Xenophon) claim that the mineral content and temperature of the water made the consumer ill.

Actual shot of clay piping that carried water to Laodicea...calcium deposits still visisble

The proof is in the pudding. The church's works are known. They aren't doing much! Wouldn't it be better that they were known for Spiritual healing (HOT, Hieropolis) or refreshing life giving ministry (COLD, Colosse)? What's interesting, is that according to Herodotus, drinking too much of the minieral laden water made one vomit.

So maybe, the Church wasn't doing what it should. It wasn't reaching out to the needy (cf. James 1:26-27). Jesus is saying this is the best thing about are making me sick.

Matthew 25:44-45: 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'"

The people were hungry, Jesus was hungry. The people were thirsty, Jesus was thirsty. The people were sick, Christ was sick.

What's interesting is that the author of Revelation uses the particle opselon, which means, "I wish." Yeah, we get that from our translations, but in the Greek, it is a fixed form particle, and introduces an unattainable wish. So the nuance is that the cultural reader would read this as "I wish for the impossible, that you were neither hot nor cold"

Well, those are my thoughts, Russ. May be wrong, may be right. You provided a nice segue for me though, because I have been wanting to blog on a topic apocolyptic in nature, which will be coming soon! Anyone who reads this, I would love feedback!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mrs. Ivan (Big Head...Little Body)

Before you read any of my pedantic wanderings, stop by Big Head...Little Body, my wife's new blog. You will be hooked. You'll love her.

I think that you'll see we make a great team. As I read her first post I thought, "Man, she is such a nice person." I am so critical...I try not to be in this blog, but I am. Where would I be without my wife?

Keeping it Weird

Occasionally I read something on a blog that is worth repeating, so keep reading for repetition.

I work for a non-profit Christian youth organization behind the scenes fundraising, planning, and keeping us legal. I have very little interaction with teens, which is good, because last time I spoke to a group of teens I realized I wasn't funny, didn't look to cool, and all my jokes brought waves and waves of laughter; errr, I mean awkward silence.

But I do enjoy spending time with teens in smaller, more relaxed settings like I did on Monday at a local High School. We sat in the room and planned for this spring semester. The conversation turned to how "weird" these kids felt being Christians in a largely non-Christian setting. I could relate! The kids said while they know their ultimate goal is to spread hope in Christ to their peers, they love meeting together on Mondays because they felt less alone...less weird.

I feel their pain! Our society is ever ostracizing Christianity. Sometimes, I understand why. From the mythologization of Christianity on the History Channel to Ned Flanders, the Media is telling Christianity is weird and marginal.

Monday night I read this great article (from the KC Star) by blogger Bill Tammeus. Please read it! I don't think Bill is saying more people are Christians than we think so Christianity must be right...I just think he is saying to the teens of Whitmer YFC, you are not fact, you are less alone than pop culture would have you believe (he has some numbers to back up his encouragement).

What it really comes down to for these kids (and myself) is their love for Christ. Peter Walker has some good thoughts on the simplicity of this subject. Their love for Christ with the support that comes from time spent with other believers results in a vibrant growing faith.

Monday, January 28, 2008

State of the Union

As I write this blog post, president Bush is wrapping up his State of the Union address. At the outset of his address, Bush was clear in admitting the actual state of our Union: Shaky. He admits that the economic condition of the US is worrying Americans sitting at their dinner tables all across the nation. Thus said, Bush's address can be seen as a pep talk, so to speak.

I doubt that anybody, myself included, could ever agree with 100% of what Bush had to say, or any president for that matter. I think anyone placed in leadership should be careful about publicly espousing their views, so as the director of a non-profit organization, I'll try to practice what I preach, and reserve my opinions for private conversation, lest I offend anyone who labors beside me.

I do feel this was a unique address (Bush's last before the next president is chosen), and am VERY curious as to how you, reader, reacted. Did president Bush inspire you? What did you think about the pending tax rebate? No child left behind? Foriegn policy? Was Bush looking forward? Backward? Let me know!

If you are liberated from constraints I feel, post a comment. Otherwise, email me your thoughts!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Joel Osteen...Give Him Some Credit

Bloggers of all faith stances love to poke fun at Joel Osteen as a fraud, a fake face, a prosperity preacher, etc.

I won't lie...I have been tempted to several times, but who am I to judge? I don't know the guy; I don't have a church of 40,000 members; I don't bleed charisma. But I had to give Osteen credit after reading this article in Newsweek.

Osteen could benefit from publicly supporting a candidate, and certainly 40,000 (at least...Osteen is televised) votes would benefit any candidate. But Osteen prefers to keep his political prefrences private. He claims he takes after his dad in this matter...probably so...but maybe he actually knows that Federal regulations are placed on non-profit organizations when it comes to this sensitive subject.

Life on Mars

I've been saying it for years...maybe now everyone will take me seriously with this INDISPUTABLE proof. It's just a matter of time before they contact us. Click here to view the proof.

Seriously...I'll admit...for some reason I would like to believe there is life somewhere out there.
I remember as a kid my dad watched Unsolved Mysteries faithfully. The sound of the music alone scared the living daylights out of me, but I couldn't help but watch, and then have nightmares about aliens coming in my bedroom and performing experiments on me.
What do you think? Do you believe in extraterrestrial life?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


My original intent for tonight's post was to critique a current catch phrase floating around in the circles which surround my line of work, and indeed, circles of which I am a part of...but...I decided to post that tommorrow or Friday. Events of the day, and reading a fellow blogger's post has inspired me otherwise.

So instead, I am going to introduce my family to the blog world--or at least the 2 or 3 that actually read this journal of sorts. I am so proud of them...certainly God's greatest gift to me outside of salvation, and besides, as I read a blog I often wonder what the writers and their families look like. Enjoy!

Sandra and I

Aylah (3)

Malachi (5, 4 when photo taken) and Ezekiel (6 months, 1 month when photo taken

Gabs (1) and Ezekiel (6 months, 1 month at time photo was taken)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Greek Translations

So I originally said EVERY WEDNESDAY I was going to post some of my exegetical thoughts. That will now have to be amended to WHENEVER I CAN, due to the "on call" nature of my job, and due to the fact that I have four kids; in fact, the other day as I was getting the Greek text put into word five little one-and-a-half-year-old fingers crept up in front of mine and started plunking on the keyboard.

But I did get three verses done. I wish I had more, but the first three have so much theological meat in them, that's all I could get done (by the way, I am working on Hebrews now instead of James). Click this entire paragraph to check out my work.

As I was going through these verses the cool nuances lost in translation got me excited. As I realized how the author of the Book of Hebrews had so carefully chosen his/her (yes, some think it was a her) words to convey the mystery of the incarnation, while at the same time teaching theological truth after truth, I thought of the church today and those of us who are a part of it. It seems like our constant disagreement over the interpreted truths of scripture has led us to say that Theology really doesn't matter...just that we inoffensively get along and love Jesus together. But that's a load of crap, and I think the author would be offended by that statement. The root of that which divides us (scripture and all its ambiguity) is that which makes a dividable unit.

Anyway, check out Hebrews 1:1-3 and email any comments. If you a disagree with me, let me hear it...I think I will still be able to get along with you and love Jesus together with you either way!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Burden of Storytelling

Lately I have noticed an unfortunate recurrence of bad exegesis. It seems that no one takes the time to understand the orinigal meaning of biblical terminology and ideas, which is a shame, because after a couple thousand years of dutiful scholarship, it should be pretty easy. It is irritating to me when someone takes a biblical term, gives it a modern definition without looking into the original understanding and context in which the term/idea was written, and applies it to modern circumstances, whether it be cultural, political, or spiritual that may have not been circumstances remotely connected to the point the original author was trying to make at the time of writing.

L. Micheal White makes the point more elogquently than I ever

People tell stories and write them down in books [which] makes them
accessible to readers. In that sense they are a medium of communication to a
braoder audience. Communication is easier when author and audience come from a
shared cultural background and time; then it is much like hearing the story told
Here the burden is on the storyteller to commmunicate in words
and ideas that the audience will find meaningful.

But books
also preserve stories and thus make it possible for later generations of readers
to encounter not only a story of a bygone era but also the people who once told
and heard it. Here the medium of commmunication is more complex.
the reader--not the storyteller--bears the burden.

If, after buying a car from a used car lot, I said to a friend, "Oh my God! It was a hip looking car, but it turned out to be a lemon," and my freind recorded my statement in his journal. Two thousand years later, my words are found in an excavation in my friends old basement. The discoverers, no matter what language they speak in 4008, might deduce that vehicles were used in worship (Oh my God), that my car physically resembled a body part (hip), and that it was all natural (lemon).

All this to say, as a protestant I have lived by Sola Scriptura and come to LOVE scripture. I hate seeing it taken lightly and used to communicate ideas it never intended to communicate. So from this day forward, every wednesday will be exegesis day for My Friend Ivan. I will start posting my translations, starting with the book of James with my footnotes every Wednesday. Hopefully some will interact with my thoughts, and hopefully I will brush up my out-of-practice Greek skills.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Japanese and US Relations

US/Russian relations may be under stress right now, but not so with Japan. Just 64 years ago the island nation was one of the biggest threats to the US, now we are on our way to becoming allies.

Japan is set to amp up its assistance to the US lead anti-terror invasion in the middle east. You can find a different take on the story here, in the Turkish Press.

It seems that after the launch of the industrial revolution, the human race engage its warp drive; that is, everything happens so much faster: Fast food, faster cars, lightning fast mail get the picture. Apparently, reconciliation can be factored into that equation.

History shows us that in the past, the wounds from the bombings between Japan and the US (Pearl Harbor; Hiroshima & Nagasaki) would have taken more than a bit over half a century to heal. I wonder what's in is for Japan? Security from China? From Russia?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Media, Murdoch, and poor Ron Paul

Who are you voting for? Don't tell me (rhetorical)!

But please be advised, your vote is and will be shaped by the media. So who is in charge of the country? You? Me? The Populous? Rupert Murdoch?

I'll go with Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch has a personal vendetta against Republican candidate Ron Paul. Even though Ron Paul was polling higher than other Republican candidates, Murdoch barred Paul from participating in the FOX (the syndicate he and his money control) News Republican Forum. In fact, Murdoch applied a filter to his email account to bar and bounce back to the sender any email with "Ron Paul" in the subject from reaching his inbox, to keep from hearing the protests of Paul supporters. But it should not surprise us that Murdoch, a war monger, who makes truckloads of cash when America is embroiled in conflict, opposes the Republican who wants to end the conflict in the Middle East. Read this to see how Murdoch has wielded his monetary power in the past to manipulate political climates.

Murdoch is not the only figure in the media to unfairly rig the polls. Think about it...who is front and center at every Republican debate? Gulianni, Huckabee, Romney, and McCain. Can you even name any of the other candidates? And what about the Democratic candidates? Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are in the middle of the stage at every debate. On both sides of the partisan divide, the candidates that the media deems unworthy have to stand on the edges of the stage, being given only one or two questions, each trivial and non-defining in nature.

I may be late in posting this, but I doubt any New Hampshire residents read this blog, so at least my warning might sink in to the few bloggers who follow My Friend Ivan before they influence the already rigged Primary system in their respective states.

My advice: Go to each candidates web site and figure out for yourself what stands on their platform, because you will not be able to make an informed decision based on the advice from the American god in your living room. I'm no conspiracy theorists...this is just too obvious.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Church and Her Issues

A couple of days ago blogger Peter Walker posted his response to the question, "What is the single most important issue facing the church in 2008?" I respect Peter Walker...I wouldn't read his work otherwise; however, I occasionally disagree with his viewpoint, as I do in this instance.

I'll give him more credit than myself though, because I did not have a ready answer...not because I didn't have ideas waiting for such a topic, but because the question begged two more:

1) What does church mean? Does it include the Catholic Church? I assume we are talking about the church univeral, but even that is ambiguous.
2) What is meant by issues? Walker answers the questions as if issues refers to flaws in the church. After reading his response, I felt that issues should refer to challenges facing the church if we are to assume that the church is to be outward focused (willing to sacrifice and die for others) and that the Holy Spirit will allow the church to survive.

Anyhow, my response will answer the challenge facing the church, church meaning any group that accepts the substitutionary atonement through Christ who was fully human, fully divine, and God's son.

Short and sweet, here it is:

Post Modernism, as sexy as it is, is erroding the universal acceptance of absolute truths. According to scripture and tradition right is right, wrong is wrong--a kind-of right or kind-of wrong cannot exist in the church at the basic level, and should not exist in the deep theological bedrock girding the fundamental beliefs (but it does, i.e. denominationalism). This idea of absolute truth has been accepted at the manipulitive eschelons of our society, thus it is now being accepted by nearly everyone. I am sure at some level, I too buy into it.

The church must not allow this ideology to permeate its heart, soul, teachings, functionality, and expression of Christ's love. The Church must find away too interact with this spirit of the age without falling prey to is sexy demeanor. The Church must continue to teach every truth held in scripture tactfully. Some will be offended, it is inevitable. Paul knew that the Gospel was a stumbling block, but he also said in Corinthians 6:3 to give no offense lest the gospel message be blamed. It will be tempting to only give watered down sermons and messages and leaving out the topics that have only become politically incorrect in the past 60 or so years, but in Love, I don't think Christ would have done that.

I don't think that that we need to build something new and trust the Holy Spirit to sustain it, as Walker says. The Holy Spirit guided the steps of a Jewish sect into a "church" over centuries, and I do not want to forsake 2000 years of His work. I think the churches response to this challenge requires very little internal change, but does require a little empathy in becoming all things to all men.

I think many in the emergent movement would agree. Take for example Jacob's Well, a church in Kansas City, Missouri. Jacob's Well statement of belief (online) is simply the full Apostle's Creed. No fancy hip terse statement full of words like community, campus, or trendy...just the tradional, ancient, affirmation of the Gospel. I applaud the church, and their pastor, who serves on the board for Emergent (Tim Keel).

What do you think the most important issue is?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Rolling Stones and the EPA

I thought this was too much of a priceless gem to not share with the few followers of this blog. Apparently the lyrics were written in conjunction with the Kellog's advertisement staff.

I don't want to hear anyone say the Stones sold out so early in their career--this is the best Rice Krispies commercial you've ever seen and heard, isn't it?

California Sues the EPA

On a different note, the state of California is suing Uncle Sam's natural watchdog, the Environmental Protection Agency with the backing of Arnold Schwarzenegger. California wants to up the standards for emmissions from automobiles from the national standard set by the EPA.

Read the details HERE.

California has the right to set their own standards, but only with a waiver from the EPA, which, in untypical fashion was denied. The EPA feels their up and coming fuel econemy mandate will be more effective than the current Californian attempts.

I don't know the science behind it, but it sounds like there may be some state/fed tension at the root. What do you think? Who is right? (read the article!)