Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saying Bye to Phil

The end of an era. No longer will Fulmer be the head coach of Tennessee. And this truly is a sad day up on Rocky Top. Despite all the negative remarks that have been made throughout the season, seeing Fulmer go is sad. He has meant a lot to the Tennessee football program, leading them to 2 SEC championships and 1 national title. But since those great years in the late 90's, things have been going down hill for the Vols.

For me, Fulmer is the only coach I can remember being at Tennessee. I was 4 when he began his career, and for every ballgame that I remember sitting through, he has been the man on the sideline leading his team to victory. But that all ended tonight, and Tennessee will now head into a new era, a new page in the history books.

It has been reported that Kiffin will take the head coach job for the 2009 season, but that has not been officially announced yet. We will have to see what comes from Knoxville on Monday. But until that day, Fulmer will be the man in the spotlight as everyone reflects on his accomplishments over the last 17 years at Tennessee.

Maybe he deserves a little bit of ridicule over this season (which has not been good, finishing 5-7). But do not let this 2008 season overshadow all the other ones. He did have some great accomplishments that we must remember. But just like in all football programs, sometimes it is time for the coach to go. They have done all that they can do, and with them staying the team would only be hurt. And sadly, I feel that is what has happened to Fulmer. He truly loves Tennessee, but if he stays, we may just continue the downward spiral. There may not be anything else he can do. But it is nice to end a great career on a win.

He will be missed. But this ending is also the start of a new beginning for the Vols. 2009 will be a great year for Tennessee football.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has had a great day today. You have had time to eat, sleep, rest, watch football, and be with family. And I hope that you took time to enjoy the day. We all know that Thanksgiving is a time when we can think about the things that we are thankful for. So be sure that you have either taken time to or that you will take time to think on those things.

One thing to do on Thanksgiving is think back to last year at this time. What has God done in your life during this last year? What things do you have to be thankful for? We are now entering into the Christmas seeing, where God gave us the ultimate gift to be thankful for, Jesus. So use this season of Thanksgiving to thank God for what He has done for you and what He is continuing to do for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Everytime I Breathe

This song has a powerful message, and describes how we are supposed to live in relation to God. But sadly, we fall short of this on a regular basis. But before I make a judgment about everyone, read these lyrics for yourself. And while you are doing so, think about your life. Is this the way that you see God on a daily basis?

Everytime I Breathe

I am sure all of heaven's heard me cry
As I tell You all the reasons why
This life is just too hard

But day by day
Without fail I'm finding everything I need
And everything that You are To me

Every time I breathe You seem a little bit closer
I never want to leave I want to stay in Your warm embrace
Oh basking in the glory shining from Your face
And every time I get another glimpse of Your heart
I realize it's true
That You are so marvelous God
And I am so in love with You

Now how could I after knowing One so great
Respond to You in any way
That's less than all I have to give

But by Your grace I want to love
You not with what I say But everyday
In a way that my life is lived

Every time I breathe You seem a little bit closer
I never want to leave I want to stay in Your warm embrace
Oh basking in the glory shining from Your face
And every time I get another glimpse of Your heart
I realize it's true
That You are so marvelous God And I am so in love with You

Wrapped in Your mercy I want to live and never leave
I am held by how humble
Yet overwhelmed by Your majesty
Captured by grace and now I'm finding
I am free
You are marvelous God And knowing You is everything

We should love God with all that we have (See #1 A Look Back at Deuteronomy 6:5). But many times I feel that we go to God when we need Him. As the first verse shows, life is hard. And we are very good about going to God during those hard times. Of course He helps us, and we are grateful for His help, but for our relationship to grow deeper, we must go to Him in all areas of life. So do we go to Him "day by day" in the good and the bad. Is He really "everything" that we need?

I am not trying to harp on anyone or make you question your relationship with God. However, I do not feel like He is everything that He can be in my life. And I would guess that many others feel the same way. I desire a deeper relationship with my God. And I sometimes wonder if the relationship that this song describes is the relationship that I have with God each day.

Please do not think that I am saying it is wrong to go to God in the hard times in life. It is very important to entrust Him in helping us in those times. But our relationship with Him should not solely be based on His help in those times. It should go deeper, and it should be a daily relationship with the God who created us, loved us, saved us, and will be with us for eternity. Run to Him each day, and be caught in His "warm embrace." That is the perfect place to be in life.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Much Needed Break

It is almost that time around campus. Thanksgiving Break is coming, and "thank"fully, that means that we will not be on campus.

After a long semester (so far), it is time again to take a break, and I will be heading home tomorrow afternoon. My last week was filled with tests and papers, but now that is all a thing of the past. I will not know my grades until we get back to campus next week, and I can now enjoy a long Thanksgiving Holiday. The busy homework assignments are over (for now), meaning that I do not have too much homework to do over my break. So I plan on sitting back and relaxing for several days (which is much needed right now).

But that is not all good news. The sad thing is that once break is over, the semester will speed up (like it always does). Those last few weeks when we get back to campus always seem to be the worst due to the fact that finals will be just around the corner. However, this semester, we will not get to finals for a while. We have two weeks of classes left prior to our finals, which is due to the fact that we started two weeks late this semester. Plus, they shaved off a week of the semester to make up for lost time. So we have been on a somewhat accelerated schedule yet again. But two weeks of classes, one week of finals, and then it will be Christmas Break for six long weeks.

So over all, Thanksgiving will be great. I can catch up on some sleep, do a little bit of homework, and prepare for the home stretch. That's the latest news from Union. There is not too much going on right now other than the regular basketball games. Once we get back, we will have some time for a few last events before finals week.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jimmie Johnson - 3-Peat

When a sports team wins 3 consecutive championships, do you consider them a dynasty?

In the case of Jimmie Johnson, I think that this must be true. For the past 3 seasons (including this latest 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series), Jimmie Johnson has been the victor at Homestead.

When the season started this year, all eyes were on Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, because of their great success at the end of last season when they battled for the championship in the final race of Homestead. But things changed very fast when Ryan Newman won the first race, Daytona, and Jimmie Johnson finished further back than normal. This cause Jimmie to start the season very low in the points.

Then, Kyle Busch, after switching to a new team, became a very dominant driver, winning race after race. It seemed as if he was the one that would be in contention for the championship when the season came to an end. Summer began, and Jimmie Johnson slowly made his way up the points standings. He was nowhere close to Kyle Busch, who would start with a great advantage in the chase, gaining 80 bonus points for his 8 regular season wins. But that would not stop Johnson.

The Chase began, and shockingly Kyle Busch had 2 bad first races, putting him at the bottom of the Chase standings (from 1st to 12th). This opened the door for Johnson, who took over the points lead just a few weeks into the Chase. And once he got on top, no one could touch him. His only major competitor was Carl Edwards, and Edwards battled him to the very end. But at Homestead last Sunday, Johnson had a substantial lead on Edwards, and the only way for Edwards to win was for Johnson to wreck out of the race. Johnson pretty much had things wrapped up, and by the end of the night, he won his 3rd consecutive championship in NASCAR's top series.

So in 3 seasons he has won the championship in different ways, showing his strength in new avenues. Is this a dynasty? I would argue yes. Jimmie Johnson is the one every driver better watch out for in the 2009 series that starts next February.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Running the Race - Part 6

This is the end of the "Running the Race" Series. After all that we have talked about in Hebrews 12:1-4, how does this apply to our life? Sometimes we read Scripture, think that is a great lesson but nevre consider that it might be directly addressing us. Yet, we can and need to grasp the author's message from this passage. So here is my application for this passage:

Much like the Christians of the early church, life can be hard for the one who choose to devote their life to Jesus Christ. The world still hates those who follow Him, and just as Paul promises in 2 Timothy 3:12, all Christians will face persecution. However, the fear of persecution should not deter the Christian from the running the race that is set before him. Christians have great examples from the past that they can look to for guidance and encouragement. This passage comes directly off of chapter eleven, where the author lists many of the Old Testament heroes that endured through hard times, kept the faith, and followed God. In the same manner, Christians today have personal heroes that they have seen persevere through different circumstances of life. They too can provide Christians with encouragement. Seeing the example of personal heroes, Christians can learn to follow in their faithful footsteps. One way in doing so is through removing sin from their life. Sins will only slow down the Christian and will hinder further success in the faith.

Not only can Christians look to biblical and personal heroes of the faith, they can also look to Jesus, who ran the race of faith perfectly. One must remember that Jesus did not die just for believers of the past. He died for Christians today as well. So His example of faith continues to provide encouragement today, giving Christians the perfect example to look to. He founded the faith, beginning it and leading Christians in it throughout all eternity. He also perfected the faith, giving people the perfect example by which to live. He did this by looking to the joy before Him, despising the shame He had to face on earth, and enduring the cross. Christians must take this into consideration when they face persecution. They have the perfect example of a man who never failed in the faith. Even when things went badly and everyone was against Him, Jesus continued to persevere. So when persecution arises in the life of a believer today, they too must learn to persevere, understanding that Jesus endured much worse sufferings. But if the story ended with His death, there would be no hope today. And thankfully the story does not end with the cross. The author of Hebrews mentions Jesus’ exaltation. And because of His victory over death, we too can share in this glory through perseverance of the faith.

I hope you have enjoyed this series. It has been good for me to continue to look at the meaning behind this passage in the weeks that have followed my paper. This was not just an assignment for me but a great study of four small verses. Remember to look to Jesus for guidance in life because He is our perfect example. Let Him guide and direct you, and do not fall to the side of the track. Keep persevering in the race and finish it strong.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Running the Race - Part 5

Hebrews 12:4

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

As the author begins to transition into the next section of the chapter, Lane offers the idea that there is a link between verses one through three and verses four through thirteen. The phrase, “not to lose heart,” links the focus upon Jesus’ endurance to the Christian’s call to endure.[1] Verse four begins with a similar idea already presented in verse one. In verse one, the author presents an example of great leaders from the faith. Then, he connects those examples to an exhortation about getting rid of the sin in their lives. In verses two through three, he provides another example in Jesus. Now, verse four seeks to encourage them to resist sin that will inevitably come up into their life leading to struggles and possibly persecution and martyrdom.

Frederick Fyvie Bruce points out that these believers had “endured severe persecution for their faith” at one point, but in those moments martyrdom was not present.[2] The author now alludes to a possibility of martyrdom for these believers. Kristemaker notices a continuing comparison between Jesus and the believer. He states that “if Jesus endured the persecution and shed His blood, His followers ought not entertain illusions of being exempt.”[3] Jesus is presented as an example for believers all throughout this passage, and this example should be followed. Therefore, when the author mentions Jesus’ sufferings and His shedding of blood, He uses that as an example of a lifestyle that Christians should be willing to model. He does not state that they must shed blood for Christ to be considered a Christian. Instead, he states that they must be willing to suffer unto that point, if the need ever arises.

According to Ellingworth, it appears as if these believers had faced persecution at one point, but at that time, it did not involve martyrdom. He sees this connection in Hebrews 10:32-34. But now, the author fears that more persecution may be on the way, and he wonders if these believers will stand their ground and resist.[4] So this verse seems to be a continuation of the author’s encouragement from chapter ten. He reminds them of the persecution that they had already faced and warns them of what could come in the near future. But the key to this passage is that they are called to endure, resist the temptation to quit the race, and continue to look to the example of Jesus.

This is what we should take from this verse: Endure in the race of life, resist the temptation of those around you that may encourage you to quit, and continue to look to Jesus for encouragement and guidance in life.

Later this week, I will conclude this series on "Running the Race" by expounding on the above statement. How does this passage apply to our lives today?

[1] Lane, World Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 9-13, 417.
[2] Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistles to the Hebrews, 342.
[3] Kristemaker, New Testament Commentary: Hebrews, 373.
[4] Ellingworth, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Commentary on Hebrews, 644.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Westmont College

Before I dive back into my study cave for the night, I wanted to ask that you pray for Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. As many of you may have heard, there has been a recent outbreak of fires in California. Last Thursday, Westmont College was one of the victims to this fire, receiving fire damage to some of their buildings on campus. As Union students, we know what it is like to go through a natural disaster, and we are asking for people to pray for this college (our sister university) during this troubling time.

Pray that they will be able to rebuild soon, getting a plan of action ready this week. Pray that students will be able to return to classes as soon as possible, if they have not already done so. Also, pray that God will be able to use this situation to His glory, that He will be seen through their testimony during such a trying time. I can understand what many of them are currently going through at Westmont, and I pray that God will be with them every step of the way. May they seek His guidance in the days ahead.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jane Eyre

Part of my current large homework load is due to this novel. Over the past 2 weeks, we have been reading Jane Eyre for British Literature. Now it is paper time, and I am currently working on writing yet another paper (on this novel).

I am sure many of you (especially men) might wonder why I have been reading Jane Eyre of all books. But you might be surprised at how well written this book is. There is a really good storyline throughout its 500+ pages. And although it is definitely a love story that women love, there is plenty of mystery and action to keep anyone interested.

As part of our in-class assignment, we had to follow a certain image throughout the whole of the novel. By doing this, I was able to see how Bronte incorporated other images into the storyline. She uses paintings and other cultural images to support her novel, which helps place it in the culture of her day. She also alludes to past and present (of her time) fairy tales and myths, which show where some of the characters come from. Finally, there is an abundance of religious images (ranging from description of the church and clergy and allusions to various Biblical stories).

One of the images I noticed was the description of God as our master. This was illustrated through the character of Mr. Rochester. He was the "Master" of Thornfield Hall. He owned the property, and Jane seemed to idolized him throughout the course of the novel. But there are also points in the novel that point to him as not being a "godly" master, and the connection to God is lost through his sinful actions. However, this idea seems to play out through the novel, ending with Jane's recognition of her own idolatry and the service she needs to devote to the true God.

The novel spans Jane's entire life. She begins with the death of her parents, which forced her to live with her hateful Aunt for many years. From there she moved to Lowood School and spent several years learning various tasks and subjects. She then became a teacher for 2 years and eventually moved to Thornfield Hall to become a governess to Adele. This is where she encounters Mr. Rochester and the strange mysteries of Thornfield Hall. What is the secret, and how will it affect her life? Well, eventually she moves yet again and encounters her cousins. She begins a school of her own, but she then returns to the remains of Thornfield, where this novel introduces its own happy ending (with some consequences).

All in all, anyone can enjoy this novel. There is mystery and action for those of you who do not like the love story lines of Victorian novels (like me). But for any woman who may be reading this blog, I know you will enjoy all the elements of the story, love, suspense, mystery, etc. So basically, whatever elements you like in a novel you will find in Jane Eyre.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Running the Race - Part 4

Hebrews 12:3

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

This example for the Christian life flows right into verse three where the author continues to speak of Christ’s sufferings in comparison to the Christian’s. From there, the author provides the encouragement for Christians to persevere. But there is a switch in verse three that focuses on a new aspect of Jesus’ suffering. Attridge points out that the author switches the focus of the suffering to “the hostility of sinners.”[1] And Koester shows how this hostility came from the Jewish leaders and men who crucified Jesus.[2] Once again, the author takes the sufferings that Jesus faced and compares them with what Christians will continue to experience. Suffering will be a part of the Christian life, and Christians will face many of the same trials that Jesus endured. So the author once again directs their attention to Jesus as he provides another exhortation on endurance.

In the second part of this verse, the author states that if their focus remains on Jesus they will be able to continue in the race, not growing weary. Delitzsch makes an interesting comparison back to the sporting imagery. He compares the soul’s weariness from trials to that of weakened knees of a runner.[3] Just as it is easy for a runner to grow weary after a long race, the Christian can grow weary after enduring many trials. However, the encouragement this verse provides will help spur the Christian on. But more than physical exhaustion, the author also provides encouragement to his fellow Christians to not give up. Guthrie points out that “to lose heart” can be translated as “fainting or giving up.” He says that their weariness would also lead to the desire to quit the faith.[4] The idea of quitting is never endorsed in this passage. Instead, the author continues to encourage his readers to endure despite the cost. And endurance will only be possible if they look to Jesus.

But when thinking about endurance, we must also remember that many times endurance involves suffering. That is where verse 4 will pick up next time. Although we are called to endure and persevere, there is never a promise that it will be easy.

[1] Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 358.
[2] Koester, The Anchor Bible: Hebrews, 524-525.
[3] Delitzsch, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews Volume II, 309.
[4] Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 399.


Life at UU


That is about all there is to it at this point in the semester. There really is not that much going on around here other than papers, tests, and homework. However, we do still find time to be involved in other activities. But now that I have had my break this week, it is time for me to climb back into my shell and prepare for 3 big tests next week (along with a paper).

Sports have been big around campus these past few weeks. Last week was homecoming week, and on Saturday we had 4 homecoming games. First our lady bulldog basketball team played and dominated! The guys backed them up by winning in overtime. Meanwhile, the lady bulldog soccer team won their first round tournament game. But sadly, the guys lost and their season came to an end. So as soccer begins to fade out around campus, basketball season has just begun.

About the only other thing going on around here for me is the fact that we have been hosting prospective students in our room. Last Friday night, we had a kid from Texas stay with us. We showed him around campus, around Jackson, went bowling, and just hung out for a while. I'm hoping he is sold on Union (and if you are reading this, we hope to see you in the Fall). Then on Saturday night, a kid came in late from Colorado and left the next day. Tonight we have two more from East Tennessee staying with us for the night, here for Preview Day tomorrow. It is a great opportunity to begin investing in the lives of these students. Many of these will be freshmen next year if they decide to come to Union, and I am sure they will enjoy seeing a few familiar faces in the midst of that big change in their life.

So like I said, I will be crawling into my cave/hole, whatever you want to call it. I have to study and do well on these last few tests before finals. And that may mean that I drift away from the blog once again. But I will try to finish up the series on Hebrews 12:1-4 despite the high work load I have right now.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Running the Race - Part 3

Hebrews 12:2

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

We ended in verse 1 with the runners looking down the track, and today we will see what that object (or more accurately, what person) is down the way. Verse 2 is the meat of this passage, and there is more information presented here than in any other verse that we will be looking at in this passage.

The object down the track is what keeps the runners going. Whereas verse one present the runners as looking at what lies before them, verse two shows the runners looking to a specific person, Jesus. The author has already made a connection to those who have run the race successfully, the witnesses. Now he introduces the man who ran the race perfectly, the one who they can look back to for an example and look towards for encouragement. The author does this in three distinct ways. He refers to Jesus as the founder and perfecter of the faith, speaks on how Jesus endured the cross, and once again alludes to His exaltation. Through these three references, the author presents Jesus as the perfect example for his audience.

In one sense Jesus is just another example for Christians to look to when running their own race; however, the author of Hebrews presents Him as the perfect example. First off, Jesus founded the faith. Paul Ellingworth suggests two possible meanings when referring to Jesus as the founder. For Ellingworth, this word means either beginner or leader, and he proposes that both descriptions are adequate. “In the immediate context, the contrast requires the meaning ‘beginner.’” But in relation to Hebrews 2:10; 11:40, Christ brings many sons to glory, and Ellingworth believes that this shows Him as a leader or pioneer.[1] V. Rhee latches on specifically to this idea of Jesus as the leader of the faith. In so doing, he remains consistent with the racing imagery of the text. Jesus is the leader in the race much like He was in Hebrews 2:10,[2] where He founded and perfected salvation. In other words, He is the one that Christians look to both as the one who founded the faith and the one who leads it onward in the race.

The second descriptive term, perfecter, also receives a pretty good consensus on the meaning of the word; however, there remains a debate as to how unique this word actually is to the text. As already seen, Jesus is described as the founder of the faith, and John MacArthur presents the idea that when the author uses the word “perfecter,” Jesus is also being described as the “One who carries it through to completion.”[3] Owen explains this same thought a little differently saying that Jesus “carries it on unto perfection.”[4] Both men introduce the idea that Jesus not only begins the faith, but He also finishes it, bringing it to full perfection. Thus, He offers Christians the perfect example of running the race of faith. Furthermore, Attridge points out that it is not Jesus or the Christians that are being perfected in this verse. Instead, Jesus is perfecting the faith.[5] This will further be seen in the remainder of verse two: through His suffering on the cross and His exaltation.

However, commentators have argued over whether the term used here for “perfecter” is unique to this biblical text or if it can be seen in other documents from the first century. To begin with, Lane states that it is “not found elsewhere in the Greek Bible and is unknown from other literature of the period.”[6] Although others agree on the fact that this Greek word cannot be found in any other biblical text, it seems as if Lane has overlooked a document in which this term is found. Koester points to a document written by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in which Dionysius uses this word to refer to an orator as a completer.[7] N.C. Croy also caught on to this piece of information and rebukes against those who state that Hebrews is the sole place in which this term is used. He argues that “the author of Hebrews did not coin the term, or at least was not the first to use it.”[8] This may seem to be a minute detail for this passage, but by seeing how this word is used by a non-biblical writer, one can more fully understand what the term might have meant in the culture of the first century. Using that definition, more light can be shed on the meaning of the word in the biblical text as well. This document helps further show that perfecter in Hebrews refers to one who brings something to completion, and in the case of the book of Hebrews, the faith is being brought to completion.

So first, the author describes Jesus as the one who both founded and perfected the faith. By describing Jesus as the perfecter, he transitions into the next part of this verse where Jesus endured the cross. When Attridge describes Jesus as perfecting the faith, he states that this “perfecting activity consists first in the creation through his death and exaltation of a new possibility of access to God in a new covenant relationship.”[9] So it goes through his death on the cross. Jesus withstood the ultimate price by dying on the cross so that Christians can see an example by which to live. Once again, looking at the Tyndale Bible Dictionary, they define crucifixion as a “form of execution…by which Jesus procured atonement for humanity.” Furthermore, they state that this term is “also used figuratively by Jesus to portray the sacrifice in discipleship.”[10] This definition points out both Jesus’ actions as well as the example that His followers are called to model.

The runners are commanded to look towards how Jesus endured the cross, in which He despised the shame and ran toward the joy before Him. Ellingworth comments on this joy saying that Jesus did not run for the earthly joy before Him. Instead, Jesus endured the cross in order that He might receive the heavenly joy.[11] He knew what was before Him in the exaltation; therefore, he continued to endure the sufferings placed before Him while on earth. Guthrie comments on how Jesus looked to the reward ahead of Him by simply enduring through the present sufferings. Through this, He provides the “preeminent example of endurance.”[12] This shows why Jesus’ example is so important to understand. The examples provided in chapter eleven were necessary and great ways to provide encouragement for the runners, but now Jesus is the ultimate example to follow. In life, Christians must look beyond the hard times, endure through them, and look toward Jesus in faith.

Finally, verse two ends with Jesus’ exaltation at the right hand of the Father. Exaltation, as defined in the Tyndale Bible Dictionary, is “the glory and dominion which Jesus attained [upon] completion of his earthly work of suffering and death… the reward of his full obedience to the will of the Father.” Furthermore, Psalm 110:1 comments on the exaltation by saying, “…sit at my right hand…” God speaks to His Son, and makes His enemies His footstool. Guthrie comments on this exaltation by stating that it should provide Christians with encouragement to persevere.[13] And Owen further expounds on this by saying that since Christ suffered yet endured, should Christians not persevere through those their sufferings?[14] Both men make a great point. Christ is being portrayed as the ultimate example, and yet He had to endure the suffering of sinful men. But despite those hard times on the earth, He still persevered through them and is now exalted in Heaven. This is the example that the author gives Christians, and this is what Christians are to look to for encouragement during their personal tribulations.

With verse two alluding back to Psalm 110:1, one must take time to see why the author once again alludes back to this verse. Lane shows how this idea was first presented in 1:3, and then how the author continues to expound upon the point in 2:5-9; 8:1-2; 10:12-13.[15] The exaltation becomes one of the major themes throughout the book of Hebrews. And Attridge says that this is the last allusion back to this passage in the book.[16] In this final allusion, the author plainly states that Jesus is seated by God’s right hand. It does not allude to some future event, saying that Jesus will be exalted to that position at some point. Instead, it clearly sits Him there, making this final allusion a critical one for the reader. Once again, the exaltation is the goal that Jesus looked to through His sufferings. And it provides Christians with an example to look to through their own sufferings.

Please remember that these posts are a series of excerpts from my paper, and you will be presented with the majority of my paper and research by the end of this series. Now verse 3 will begin to provide the application of this passage, and we will look at that next time.

[1] Paul Ellingworth, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Commentary on Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993) 640.
[2] V. Rhee, “Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 12:1-29,” Westminster Theological Journal 63, no. 2 (2001), 5&hid=103&sid=3211ba31-00a5-4e1e-b72e-f8f1341c4b37%40sessionmgr104 (accessed October 11, 2008).
[3] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1983) 379.
[4] Owen, The Works of John Owen: An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews with Preliminary Exercitations Volume VII, 239.
[5] Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 356.
[6] Lane, World Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 9-13, 411.
[7] Koester, The Anchor Bible: Hebrews, 523.
[8] N.C. Croy, “A Note on Hebrews 12:2,” Journal of Biblical Literature 114, no. 1 (1995), http://web.eb essionmgr104 (accessed October 11, 2008).
[9] Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 356.
[10] Elwell and Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, CD-ROM.
[11] Ellingworth, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Commentary on Hebrews, 641.
[12] Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 399.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Owen, The Works of John Owen: An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews with Preliminary Exercitations Volume VII, 244.
[15] Lane, World Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 9-13, 413.
[16] Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 358.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Somewhere in the Middle

In your relationship with God, have you ever felt like you did not know exactly where you were? I mean, have you thought "I know I have made progress," but still feel like "but I know I am not there yet." If so, then you are completely normal. However, like me and so many others, you probably tell yourself that you find yourself stuck in the middle. Take heart, the Apostle Paul found himself in a similar situation as well in Romans 7. He says that he does the very thing that he hates and not the thing that he knows is right. He in essence is stuck somewhere in the middle of what is right and what is wrong. Casting Crowns does a good job in expressing this idea in their song, "Somewhere in the Middle."

Somewhere in the Middle

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me
Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You're making me
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control
Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves
Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control
Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But would we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle

Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You're by my side
Loving me even on these nights when I'm caught in the middle

This song has so many great images, and I have felt them so many times in my life. Some of the ones that stick out to me are:

  • Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be, who I am and who you're making me... How many times do you feel like you make progress and then revert back? I have been through this, and at times I feel like I am stuck there. Now we will never get to what we want to be in Christ this side of Heaven. However, we are called to try continually.

  • Somewhere between my heart and my hands... Our thoughts and ideas on how to serve Christ are sometimes just that, great ideas. They fail to be backed up by action. And I know I am guilty in this area.

  • Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves... This is a recurring theme through Casting Crowns music (appearing on all 3 CD's), and it is very true for some of my life. It goes well with the second point. We know what we are supposed to be doing in Christ, but we like the comfort of the boat and are scared to get out and work for Him.

  • Deep water faith in the shallow end... This one of the most vivid images of the song. At times, we can get so caught up in wanting to know the theological issues or know God so much better that we find ourselves wading in the shallow end of the pool, again afraid to see what else God has in store for us. Knowledge is great, but when it is not backed up by action, we are just wading in the shallow end of the pool.

There are many other images that speak to me, and these are just a few. But my encouragement for myself and for you is to take action. Stop sitting around with great ideas on how you can better serve God and go out there and work for Him. Take hold of the gifts that He has given to you and let Him use you in life.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Running the Race - Part 2

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..."

The passage begins with the word “therefore” in verse one. Any time that a conjunction of this sort appears, one must look to the preceding section to determine from where the author is coming. This use of grammar shows why understanding a passage in context can help aid one to understanding the passage as a whole. Lane comments on this shift stating that it goes “from historical recital (11:1-40) to pastoral exhortation.”[1] The author chooses to move away from the great examples of the past and begins to give his encouragement for their endurance in the race.

This smooth transition can further be seen in the reference to the “cloud of witnesses,” a direct connection to chapter eleven. When thinking about a witness, two different ideas can come to mind. Elwell and Comfort explain these in the Tyndale Bible Dictionary. They say that a witness can be “one who tells what he or she has seen…often in a court” or it may refer to “the testimony the person has given.”[2] The first possible meaning of this word provides the image of a spectator, and coupled with the athletic imagery, this person sits in the stadium watching the new competitors compete in the race. Franz Delitzsch seems to agree with this idea suggesting that the witnesses or spectators are still sitting around the competitors serving as “judges and umpires.”[3] But many other commentators disagree with this notion and tend to side more with the second definition. R.C.H. Lenski is one of these, and he promotes this second view stating that these past men and women’s “souls…are at rest, they are no longer concerned about the trials that occur on earth.” Instead of testifying about us, their “life, works, sufferings, and death attest their own faith, testifying to us.”[4] This second view seems more logical in that the rest of the verse provides an exhortation for the author’s audience, suggesting that those currently running in the race look up to their positive example rather than the witnesses looking down to see how the present competitors are running the race.

Next, the author moves into two important exhortations. First, runners in the race must lay aside anything that would slow them down and prevent them from completing the race. Secondly, runners are commanded to run with endurance in the race. These two exhortations are placed between the uses of positive examples: those from chapter eleven, referred to as witnesses, and that of Jesus, the ultimate example.

Two things are mentioned that would slow a runner down, and John Owen comments on what entangles runners in a race. He mentions how weights and burdens were heavy and would prevent men from running quickly. He also states that some items, like long clothing, would get in the way during the race.[5] These are things that must be laid aside. Again, the author makes use of a clever metaphor. Long clothing or training weights are symbolic items that prevent Christians from running effectively in the race. The author is making yet another parallel to the racing arena. He specifically states that sin will entangle a runner, drawing a parallel between sin and long clothing. But there is no specific connection made to the weight. Attridge does not separate the two ideas. Instead, he refers to both the weight and the sin as “moral impediments” hindering the runner in the race.[6] Furthermore, Lane mentions specific examples such as love of money, the world, or self, and he comments on how the passage suggests that these things distract the runner.[7] Before the runner can run the race effectively, all distractions must be dealt with, and that is why the author first mentions the importance of removing the sins that would prevent them from running the race. Sin is an “evildoing that is not only against humanity, society, others, or oneself, but against God.”[8] Notice that this definition mentions that sin is against one’s self. This makes sin quite personal, showing why sin, when entangled in a person’s life, can become a hindrance.

He then moves into his second point, that of running the race with endurance. This idea really stems from the first point, and some may not consider it as a new idea given by the author. But it is important to realize that unless a runner removes the weights and sin, then he will not be able to run with endurance. Along the same lines, someone may remove those things from their life, but that does not mean that they will continue to run the race with endurance. But why should there be endurance? Attridge says that “‘with endurance’ suggests that the race is more [of a] marathon than [a] short sprint.”[9] Guthrie uses this same idea and comments on how the runners (Christians) see the “past of the faith life stretch into the future.”[10] This image presents the idea of perseverance where the runners are encouraged not to give up. Instead, they must continue to look down the track so that they may continue to press on toward the goal.

So what is down the track that Christians are called to look toward? That will be seen in verse 2, which we will look at next time.

[1] Ibid, 403.
[2] Walter A. Elwell and Philip P. Comfort, eds, Tyndale Bible Dictionary (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001) CD-ROM.
[3] Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews Volume II (Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1952) 297.
[4] R.C.H. Lenski, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James (United States of America: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998) 424.
[5] John Owen, The Works of John Owen: An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews with Preliminary Exercitations Volume VII (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 1991) 224.
[6] Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistles to the Hebrews, 355.
[7] Lane, World Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 9-13, 409.
[8] Elwell and Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, CD-ROM.
[9] Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1989) 355.
[10] Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 398.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

House - The Book

Just a few days ago, I mentioned that this book was being turned into a movie. Last night, the world was introduced to that movie, and sadly I have not yet been able to see it. Currently, it is only in select theaters, and I am not sure if it will open in others in the coming weeks (I hope it does).

But I thought it would appropriate to give you a quick summary of the book in case you want to go see the movie and are wondering what this story is exactly about.

The book starts off with a couple from Alabama who are having some marital problems. Their daughter was killed in a freak accident while skating on some thin ice, and their marriage is continuing to fall apart. On their way to a marriage counselor they get lost, meet an odd officer, and then end up in a car accident that leaves them without a car. This forces them to find a house so that they can contact the police. But when they arrive in this house, there is no phone.

Upon their arrival, Jack and Stephanie meet another couple (who are not married) Randy and Leslie. They too have had some car troubles and now find themselves looking for help, stumbling across the same house (coincidence?). As they begin exploring the house, they meet Betty, Stewart, and Pete, a family who apparently own this house/hotel. From there the story gets complicated. The Tinman traps them inside, gives them the house rules (which basically tells them to kill one person before dawn or they all die), and they must find a way out.

This house is a metaphor of Hell. You will hear throughout the book and the movie "you are guilty," "you are sinners," "the wages of sin is death." They are figuratively being trapped within the house by their personal sins. And the only way to freedom is to confront those sins and work past them. To do this they must find redemption, and that is seen through a little girl named Susan. But is she truly their answer to this mystery or is she just a ploy developed by the Tinman? She seems to be the nice little girl, but she could be a creation of him. That is what they must figure out if they want to survive this haunted house.

There is so much more to this story, but you really need to read the book to understand it all. I will tell you this much, I just re-read this book this week. The last time I read it was 3-4 years ago. Both times, this book has given me chills. The book itself is scary enough. I cannot imagine what the movie will be like, but I am excited to see it. So go buy House and see what you think.

But remember, once you enter the house, the only way out is in.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Running the Race - Part 1

Hebrews 12:1-4

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Over the past several weeks I have been working hard with this passage. This semester I am in a class where we are going step-by-step and verse-by-verse through the book of Hebrews. As part of our requirements for the class, we have to write a paper on one section of the book. So I have been working on this paper for quite some time now, reading commentators views on the passage, looking up key words in the passage, and trying to figure out what the author of Hebrews is saying. Now the problem comes with relaying that information to you. I highly doubt that you want to read a 15+ page paper about 4 verses. So I am going to give you parts, or chunks, of my paper that I feel will help you understand this passage. Now to prevent an extremely long blog post, I will do this in parts as well. Today I am going to give you the introduction to my paper that looks at the passage as a whole. In the days to come we will look at some of the verses specifically, look at the historical background of this passage, and finally look at an application for our daily lives. So after this very long introduction to this new series, here is a quick introduction to Hebrews 12:1-4.

The beginning of chapter twelve in the book of Hebrews serves as an important transition between the example of the faithful ones mentioned in chapter eleven and the encouragement given to the congregation in chapter twelve. When reading this passage, it is important to understand who the author is referring back to as a “cloud of witnesses” when looking back to chapter eleven. It is also important to understand the role Jesus plays in the Christian faith, both in His crucifixion and exaltation. One who does not understand these examples of faithful men will not understand the importance of the exhortations provided. This passage deals with the ways in which these men and women have shown faithfulness and how a contemporary Christian can continue to “run the race” while turning away from sin and looking towards Christ. When studying this passage, one must consider why the author uses the examples of past witnesses and Christ and what relevance that has for Christians in today’s society.

So as we go verse by verse, we will look at this sports imagery and how that helps one further understand the meaning of this passage. But let me go ahead and say that the main point that I hope you get out of this passage is endurance. We are called to endure through the Christian life, focusing on Jesus, as we go through life's mountain tops and valleys.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Wins

I stayed in front of the TV last night for 6 hours watching the returns slowly come in. I have not been open on here about who I was supporting during this Presidential Race, but I figure that many of you knew who it was. I was for John McCain, and at the start of the night, there did seem to be some hope that he might be able to pull off a victory. But when Pennsylvania fell through, things began to turn and seem a little less than hopeful. And when old red states turned blue, the final nail was put in the coffin.

About 9:45 (central) Obama had 220 projected votes, and California was soon to close. That is when I figured it out. A few minutes later, the news began turning to the west coast to see what was coming up next, and they confirmed my suspicions. Then, at 10:00 the polls closed and they projected Obama to win California and win the Presidency.

So where do we go from here? Well, for the next 2-3 months George Bush will finish up his 2nd term. Then, in January, Obama will become the 44th president of the United States. This is a new day for America, and we can either support our president or turn away. Which seems more logical? To me the obvious choice is support. Just like past races, if the party that loses does not help and support the winning party, things will not work right in this country. Think about the last 8 years. George Bush has been the president, and at first the Republicans had a strong hold on the country. But the Democrats persevered, and now they have a strong hold in the White House. Things can always change quickly in this country.

But the key is that we cannot give up on America. Maybe you do not like the results of this election, but should you go against our country because you are unhappy? Should you disrespect the one who has been elected our newest leader? Absolutely not! Instead, we should support him to some degree. The Bible calls us to support the leaders before us. Now obviously, if a leader rejects God's Word, then we are called to follow what we know is right (and that goes with any leader). But still, support your country and support your president. This is a new day, and we can choose to either be disappointed and angry (causing division) or be supportive.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Obama....McCain....Who will win?

I do not know about you, but I have many mixed feelings about today. In one sense, I have waited for this day for a long time. This is my first time to ever vote in the presidential election, and I must say that this was an interesting one to be my first time. But other than that, we have heard about this day for the past 2 years. People have been talking about Clinton, Obama, McCain, and Huckabee for a while now (and that was just a few of the candidates). So in a way, I am glad to see this day come because it means that all this hype will finally be over. Finally.

However, this is a really important day that many are dreading. We all want our candidate to win the election, but the reality of it is that only one person can win. Later tonight when the last few polls close and the results trickle in, Obama or McCain will become the 44th president of the United States, only one of them. And if it is not who you voted for, you will probably be disappointed.

And I must say that if things do not turn out like I want them to, I will be disappointed as well. But one thing that I have been learning the past few weeks is this: No matter what happens tonight with the election, God will remain on His throne, in His seat of power. No one re-elects Him to be God. No one votes on who will come after Him (because no one will). I am not saying that our election does not matter, because it really does. But am I going to fret and worry over what will happen to the country if my candidate does not get elected? NO! Am I going to worry if my candidate does get elected? Still, NO!

When it comes down to it, both Obama and McCain are human, just like you and me. They will be in a great seat of power, and they will be our president, but I know that ultimately I serve someone much greater. Now I say all of this acting like I never worry, but that is far from the truth. I have spent hours wondering about how this will all turn out tonight. And deep down, I am just as concerned as any other American. But when I go to God with it, He calms those nerves, reminds me that He is still in control, and I rest in His peace.

Go out and vote if you have not already done so! It is your right to have a say in how things turn out tonight. Let your voice be heard. But remember that no matter who wins tonight, God will continue to reign. He will still be God, and He will continue to watch over you through life. You can always count on Him, and His term never ends!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sad Football Days

So last night I began watching the Tennessee/South Carolina game. Once again, I was hoping that we could stage some amazing comeback for the season. But I was quickly disappointed in the performance of the Vols. Before I knew it, we were down by 14 and had tried 2 different quarterbacks. Disgusted, I just turned the TV off and worked on some homework. When my roommate came in, he asked what the score was. So I turned it back on to see and was shocked to find that we were 21 down instead of 14. I did not turn it on again until the 2nd half, but things did not turn around for us. We finally managed to score, but that was about it. So now Tennessee is 3-6. I do not even know if they have ever had this bad of a record since I was born. I know that I do not remember it ever being this badly. But hopefully things will turn around next week against Wyoming.

Then today, I was excited to see the Packers overtake the Titans. And honestly, they had a really good shot at it. This was one of the Titans biggest challenges thus far this season. But they showed why they are the only undefeated team left in the NFL. In a great overtime run, the Titans pushed ahead of the Packers and won the game. I was impressed to see that Rodgers is continuing to show out, getting over 300 yards yet again. Earlier this week they extended his contract until 2014. So although the record may not show much for us this season, many of our loses are just barely losses. We have not really had a team run over us yet.


Saturday, November 1, 2008


Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti's book, House, will come to theatres next Friday night. This movie has been in the works for several years now and was going to be released last fall. But much work has been put into this movie, and now we will finally be able to see it.

Before I begin giving you reasons to go see this movie, I must warn you of what you will find. I have been reading some reviews on this movie this past week, and for the most part it is getting positive reviews. The secular market seems to be happy with this horror film. But beware, because this movie is rated "R." Now from what I have read from both Ted Dekker and other sources, the reason for the "R" rating is specifically for "intense terror." They do not give any other reason for this rating.

This is not a movie to take children to (you can tell that from the rating), but just because it is a Christian film does not mean that the whole family should go out and see it. However, I do feel like it will be worth your time if you enjoy horror films. The story itself is great. The catchphrase is this: "the only way out is in." To find the redemptive quality of this storyline, one must go further into the house. There, they will find a rescue. In the story, that redemptive quality is seen through the character of Susan.

According to Ted Dekker, the producers attempted to cut her character out of the movie, turning this into a horror film and not a Christian one. He stepped in and re-wrote Susan back into the story. And although she is back into the movie, I do not think it is exactly like Dekker wanted it. However, he still seems upbeat and positive about the movie, which encourages me to want to see this movie still.

I encourage you to do the same. Go out and support this one if you do not mind horror films. But remember that it has been classified as "intense terror." This releases to a short list of cities this next weekend. But if it continues to get good reviews and many go out and see it, then there is a possibility that it will be released to more cities in the coming weeks, giving more people a chance to see this movie. If I get a chance to go, I will, and then I will let you know what I think of the movie adaptation of the book.