14 things your missionaries might like to tell you, but feel inhibited

NOTE: Many thousands have read this little article, thanks so much! May I invite you to share it with your mission board; your friends; sign up for my blog, at right; to read an article about missionary letters;  a recent article on Acts 1:8; and our missionary website where we describe our works as theological educators in Costa Rica.

Let me put on my missionary hat!

When Paul and Barnabas returned home from their journey, they “gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). Your church’s missionaries periodically pay you a brief visit. They will tell you about their successes and failures, and thank you for your support.

 There are things your visiting missionaries might wish to tell you but feel they cannot:

 When we’re visiting you, we haven’t actually “come home.” We live elsewhere, and are temporarily visiting the place where we used to live. Especially for missionary kids, “home” is far from here. We are usually keen to get back to where we belong.

Don’t assume that we are up to date on all the latest U.S. culture.

"So, where was I? Anyway, that was so sad when Billie Dee got hurt. And, and!...I think that Meryl and Maks might have a little romance going...Of course, I wouldn't be caught dead voting for Chelsea..."

“So, where was I? Anyway, that was so sad when Billie Dee got hurt. And, AND!…I think that Meryl and Maks might have a little romance going…Well of course, I wouldn’t be caught dead voting for Chelsea…”

We are aware that we look older-heavier-greyer-balder than the last time we passed through town. Everyone at your church does, too, but it’s basic courtesy not to mention it! (more…)

Sure, like, why not?

[I'm a theologian and it's been a long day of the Greek of Romans 13. Let's take a break]

Looked at from one angle, my life may be divided into two halves.

The first half was labeled: No thanks.

The second half: Yes, lets!

stock-footage-newport-rhode-island-circa-september-sailboat-moving-fast-in-narragansett-bayActual Examples of “No Thanks”: Gary, you want to go sailing in the bay with us? No thanks. How about playing some hoops? Don’t feel like it. You want to go and hear this messianic group, “The Liberated Wailing Wall”? Thank you, no. You’ve gotta come to our clam bake! Thanks anyway.

What made me change directions? Probably just growing up some, but two events made me rethink things.

First: a College Retreat. I almost never went to any social or sport event in high school or college. I’m just not interested, I thought. I have things to do. Then my fiancée Karen and I decided to go on our senior class retreat. And I had an excellent time. I became friendly with people whom I knew mainly as backs of heads from class. So, I asked, why hadn’t I done this before?

Second: My college roommate Sam just would not stop pestering me to go to this Christian concert with him. You’ll love it, he said. He’s not Larry Norman, he said – guess where my head was at! – but he’s amazing. Naw, I replied. I’d better not; I have stuff to do, I retorted. C’mon, man! No. It turns out that was my last opportunity to hear Keith Green perform before he died in that plane crash. I became a big fan of his – but posthumously.

I hear there’s a Jim Carrey movie called “Yes Man”. “Carl Allen is at a standstill. No future…Until the day he enrolls into a personal development program based on a very simple idea: say yes to everything!” Lessons are learned, perils are avoided, the boy gets the girl (Zooey Deschanel!), etc.

I joke around with my kids that they ought to be “Yes let’s! Guys and Gal”, to go to a game or get ice cream or see a show, just because someone suggests it. I try to make my rapid response, “Absolutely, let’s do it!”

One way of viewing the Christian life is that it is a long list of things Not To Do. And certainly, there is some truth here, and we see Christians doing plenty of bad stuff. Just say no.

But at the heart of the matter is a ringing Yes: ‘All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory’ (2 Cor 1:20 NLT). God designed our new life in Christ to be positive, open, vital, growing. The new life is meant to be lived, not locked away. Like the parent who scatters Easter eggs [1] for the little ones to discover, our loving Father delights for us to find new blessings, learn new truths, share our joy with others. May we live firmly in God’s truth, in his own armor, but unintimidated by life.

NOTES:

[1] And yes, I know all about the origins of Easter eggs. It’s an illustration.

“Sure, like, why not?” by Gary Shogren, Professor of New Testament at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

New Year’s Resolutions or New Covenant Miracles? [Studies in the New Covenant]

"Okay, this time for sure!"

“Okay, this time for sure!”

For many years, I made no New Year’s resolutions. My reasoning:

  • Why make a big deal just because the planet has revolved around the sun to an arbitrary point in space?
  • Why try to be a better persons on this one day when I should be doing it all the time?
  • Are resolutions relevant to me, since I don’t need to quit smoking, drinking or gambling?

I’ve come to think differently, having taken another look at the Bible and paid closer attention to human behavior. For the past 5 years or so, I have made a single New Year’s Resolution on December 31.

The Word reveals to us that there are two methods for making resolutions (more…)

“From Jerusalem to the Uttermost Parts of the Earth” – Have we Misunderstood Acts 1:8?

map-of-samaria

A missionary comes to your church to speak, and you absentmindedly turn to Matt 28:18 or Acts 1:8. Sure enough, this time he will speak about the Great Commission from Acts:

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.

His sermon touches upon familiar points:

Jerusalem was their home town, and they were supposed to evangelize there first. Judea was their home area. Now, Samaria was like but not identical with Judea, but next in line since it was a nearby mission field. And of course “the end of the earth” means any foreign country. [1]

In conclusion, the preacher adds:

  • We are all called to be missionaries (I take objection to that, by the way, see below).
  • What is your Jerusalem and Judea?
  • What is your Samaria?
  • What is the uttermost part of your earth? Does God want you to preach his gospel in a foreign land? (more…)

The Forgotten Sign of the End Times: icy relations among God’s people

The signs of the End Times, you say? Sure, I can list a few! Earthquakes, wars, famines, pestilence! Persecution, false Messiahs, false prophets!

Indeed, and they are right there in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24-25).[1]

What’s more, beyond the actual teaching of the New Testament, there exists an entire industry of people working double shifts, vainly calculating the identity of the Antichrist, the role the USA plays in prophecy, where are they hiding that giant computer in Belgium, Obamacare microchips and so forth. But even these prophecy experts go blank over one “sign”: for among Jesus’ words, hiding in plain sight, is a characteristic of the End that seems to be consistently missed or minimized, that during tribulation

…many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another…the love of many will grow cold (Matt 24:10, 12 ESV).

"The End is Nigh!"

“The End is Nigh!”

“Fall away” indicates that these are professing believers. Persecution comes, and Christians, feeling the pressure, turn on each other. As I have argued elsewhere (click HERE),  against conventional wisdom, tribulation as such does not make Christians more caring or more unified – when human nature has its way, people will betray each other in order to survive. As one commentator says about these verses: “What only outsiders had done previously is now said of members of the church: they too will ‘deliver up’ Christian brothers and sisters. Hate, the way the world relates to the church, will also surface in the church.”[2] This Love Recession will not grab the headlines that a war or an earthquake would (more…)

JETS review of my Thessalonians commentary

JETS review of Shogren ZECNT

2 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT

zecnt-cover.jpg

Here is my own translation of 2 Thessalonians from the original Greek, which I produced over a long  period of time as part of my Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians. The book may be purchased from Amazon and now on pre-pub from Logos. Zondervan had asked that I provide an “expanded” translation. One thing to note about this letter is that it cites the Old Testament much more than does 1 Thessalonians; we mark it with red ink.

2 Thessalonians ZECNT translation

A few observations

ONE: 2 Thess 2:3 says that “the Day of the Lord will not come if there has not first come the Apostasy [from the Greek apostasia] and the Man of Lawlessness has been revealed.” Some translate the word apostasia as the rapturing away of the church, but this is untenable. This passage is no proof of some pretribulational rapture before the tribulation. See proof HERE.

TWO: 2 Thess 2:6 says “and as you know you know what it is that restrains the Man of Lawlessness…only the one who restrains it will do so until he is taken out of the way.” Many Christians automatically assume that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit, present in the church. This is by no means clear; I lean toward the view that it is a powerful angel (see Dan 10:13 – “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia”).

THREE: Some versions translate 2 Thess 3:11 and import their own ideas of what was going wrong in the church. For example, the Good News Bible says that “we hear that there are some people among you who live lazy lives and who do nothing except meddle in other people’s business.” In fact, the text does not mention laziness at all; the word is best translated “in a disorderly manner”.

Related posts:

Studies in Thessalonians Series

“2 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT,” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

1 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT

zecnt-cover.jpg

I invite you to read my own “expanded” translation of 1 Thessalonians from the original Greek, part of my Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians. The book may be purchased from Amazon and now on pre-pub from Logos.

1 Thessalonians ZECNT translation

While the commentary is based on the Greek text, we place a great deal of emphasis on how the pastor might preach the epistle, and how it might be applied to today.

Zondervan asked me for this type of translation, as will be seen in 1 Thess 1:3 where I unpack “your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope” (so the ESV).

Here are some interpretative questions:

ONE: “Without fail we remember before God your work that arises from your believing, and your hard labor that comes from your love for others, and your endurance that comes from the hope you have, faith, love and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ as you live in the presence of God our Father” (1 Thess 1:3). I render “love” as “love for others” rather than love for God. In these letters Paul speaks much of mutual love, and I believe he is concerned about the sign of the end times when “the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24:12).

TWO: 1 Thess 1:9b-10 I take to be an outline of Paul’s gospel, one that the Thessalonians would have memorized. It is thus similar to his preaching outline in 1 Cor 15:3-5.

THREE: “We took the position of little children among you” (1 Thess 2:7). Most English versions have “we were gentle” among you. The difference between the two readings is based on the Greek text: the oldest manuscripts have the Greek nēpioi, “little children”. The majority of the manuscripts have ēpioi, “gentle”. When read aloud they would have sounded exactly the same, and this is what led to two readings. By “little children” Paul means that his team did not use adult guile to deceive his audience.

FOUR: “We who are alive and remain will be taken up together with those who were dead in the clouds to welcome the Lord in the air” (1 Thess 4:17) I translate the word apantēsis as “welcome.” The word was commonly used when a king or dignitary was going to visit a city, and the inhabitants went out to meet him and accompany him back. That is, the saints will ascend to meet Christ and then accompany him back to the earth at the beginning of his kingdom; this would all take place at the very end of the tribulation. I see no proof in the passage that the rapture will take place before the tribulation. See article HERE.

We will share the translation of 2 Thessalonians in another post.

Related posts:

Studies in Thessalonians Series

“1 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT,” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Pastor, tell your flock the truth about itself [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

brad pitt

(Actually, I think my caricature turned out pretty well)

It’s summertime, let’s stroll down the boardwalk! Inevitably there’s someone drawing chalk pictures of self-conscious passersby. His caricature is a sketch of a person which exaggerates some aspect of one’s appearance or character. At the beach, it’s meant to be fun; on the editorial page it might demean. In some hands, it is a weapon: all propaganda contains a dollop of truth blended with distortion.

The Scripture tells us not to bear false witness against our neighbor (Exod 20:16). The CEV version has, “Do not tell lies about others,” which captures part of the verse; you might say something untrue: “Shemaiah stole my ox!” (when he really hadn’t). Another, more sinister version is to offer a distorted picture: “Shemaiah” (who is quite reputable) “has over the years committed the following 27 offenses against me; he is no good.”

In 1 Corinthians, Paul delivered a carload of hard statements: You harbor an incestuous church member! You nullify the meaning of the Lord’s Supper! You go to prostitutes! You’re arrogant! And this is only the beginning. He will speak frankly and at time angrily. But that does not prevent him from sincerely noting the Corinthians’ spiritual successes in the first few sentences of the letter. His disappointment does not poison (more…)

Frenemies of Christ

Have you met the guy who says:

Yes, I’m a follower of Jesus, but I’m not a “churcher.” I have fellowship with my Christian friends, we pray together, we talk over coffee, we discuss the Bible, we have a commitment to hold each other accountable. These guys are my “church.” And they are more serious than regular church members about their faith. Doesn’t that fulfill God’s expectation that I meet with other believers? [1]

Church: "EVERY-body's invited!"

Church: “EVERY-body’s invited!”

By all means, get together with other believers. Church is not what you do for an hour on Sunday morning. On the other hand, being the church must include a regular, open meeting with all types of believers who draw together at a predetermined place and time. Meeting with a friend requires a special invitation; everyone is invited to the church meeting.

Sociologists and students of brain chemistry have proven that, no matter how broad-minded we think we are, “like” gravitates to “like”. It’s not in our nature to feel comfortable around people of different personalities or education or politics or level of spiritual zeal, and our brain is hardwired to resist diversity. This is why it’s a constant battle if any group survives without breaking into cliques or splitting up. It’s a miracle, literally, how any church can stick together. (more…)

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