Saturday, April 26, 2014

Study Starter: The Great Commission

Study Starter: The Great Commission by Christopher Wiles

I regret that we as humans aren't perfect.  Sometimes our best efforts can still fall a little short.  I see this especially in our English translations which are sometimes limited and can actually take us away from the emphasis the original Biblical writers intended.  Take for instance the Great Commission, which you have likely heard for years and know by heart. 
Matthew 28:19-20a (KJV) "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you;"

Due to this translation, we have a tendency to boil the beautifully simple Great Commission down into three basic and  equivalent commands:  Go, Teach, and Baptize. 

Yet one look at the Greek words show that these are not parallel commands at all.  We find out that KJV translation of the verse 19 "teach all nations" is written differently from the "Go, Baptize, and Teaching".   Here's the parsing of the words in Greek
Go (v. 19) - πορευθεντες (poreuthentes)-  a participle meaning "going"
Baptize (v. 19)  - βαπτιζοντες (baptizontes) - a participle meaning "baptizing"
Teach (v. 20) - διδασκοντες (didaskontes) - a participle meaning "teaching"
Here's  what verse 19 "teach" looks like
"Teach" (vs. 19) - μαθητευσατε (matheteusate) - an imperative verb commanding "make disciples"

Here's the rub of it all.  Most translations and sermons put all four of these verbs into parallel commands such as "Go, teach, baptize" or maybe four commands such as "Go, Disciple, Baptize, Teach".  Yet when Matthew recorded Jesus' words in Greek, the first word for "teach" (KJV)  or better translated "Make disciples" (NIV), is given first priority.  "Make disciples" stands out from among the rest because it is the only direct imperative command in Jesus' Great Commission. 

To sum it up, the Jesus' Great Commission directly commands us to MAKE DISCIPLES.  Then Jesus gives us a three step process into HOW to make disciples: by going, baptizing, and teaching.   Keep studying and consider how your disciple making is going. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

College Exams Conversation

***For all the college students out there studying for finals, here's something I wish someone else would have told me 15 years ago***

From Nathaniel (a student) posting on Facebook, "Hi world, I'm a bit cross at the moment. I currently have an 89 in a class. woo hoo! To bump it up one point I need an 95 on my final, which is all essay, and in this particular class I have yet to get over a B on a writing assignment. However in order to get a B in the class I have to get a 29..... Talk about becoming ridiculously unmotivated."

A reply from me, Christopher,  (former student and former public school teacher) 
     "Since many of my professors are now personal friends, why not consider your essay exam an opportunity to say "thanks for the knowledge" and make them proud of the work they've done in you? Exams don't have to be JUST grade getting devices. Think how encouraged a professor would feel if you scored an honest 97. He/she could say "Yeah, that Nathaniel, he really got it. He understood the material and he showed amazing work ethic. I'm proud of that guy."
      If friendship and honoring the prof aren't good motivators, consider that universities are good places to work. This professor may one day be a dean or a provost or administrator, and you might just want a job. If you knew he/she was a future employer, would you want to be the guy he/she remembers as scoring a 30 because you just didn't care? Would you ever walk into an job interview anything less that giving your best?
      Many of my professors are now my friends and I did work for the university for two years in a full time position. Because of these situations I realize I might have just a bit of a different perspective. Oddly enough, my physics professor performed my wedding ceremony, even though I was a theology major, so don't count out those general education professors either!
     Then there's always the intrinsic motivation from the Lord in Colossians 3:23 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.'

Give it your best Nathanial, I'm rooting for you!"

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Living Lessons: The Rising of Spring

Living Lessons: April 20th, 2014
The Rising of Spring by Christopher Wiles

Homemade snow cream doesn't beat it.  Sledding down the FastMax hill can't top it.  Even as much as I love making snow forts and having an all out snowball war, I still like spring better. Spring has finally sprung.  We're getting outside to wash our ice wearied cars.  We've got the mowers sharpened and readied to manicure the rapidly rising grass.  Those 60-70 degree afternoons have returned with their highly anticipated regularity.  Spring has sprung and I love it.

What do you like so much about the spring?  Could it be the deep life affirming green of the grass?  Is it the daffodils blooming in full force?  Could it be the myriad of rabbits hopping and playing through your yard? 
Rising.  For me spring is all about rising.  The foliage is rising rubbing the sleep from its long dormant eyes.  The animals are rising from their dark nests, holes, and burrows.  Neighbors are rising from the isolating fog of long depressive winter moods to greet their community once again.  The sun even seems to be rising with renewed strength, vigor, and warmth every single day. 

With the growth of grass, the sparrow singing, the rabbit romping, I am oft reminded of the rising that trumps all risings.  Spring reminds me of the rising of our Lord and Savior.   No other event has so changed the destiny of creation.  No other act has so baffled the minds of men.  It is the rising of the Christ that is arguably the most controversial and wonderful historical event of the last two millenniums.

In this one single event I was given life; life that is new, abundant, and fulfilling.    I am grateful for the spring, and the reminder of the Christ that the rising brings.  What about you? 

"He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." - Matthew 28:6

Friday, April 11, 2014

Living Lesson: Cats in the Cradle

Living Lessons:  Cats in the Cradle on Graduation Sunday  - by Christopher Wiles
     To you graduates and all those who are someone’s child.  It took me at least a decade to really listen, and it’s taken several more years to really understand, but now with my own kids I’m coming to know the truth of Harry Chapin’s 1974 hit song “Cats in the Cradle”.
     This song details the life of a child as he grows up to become just like his work-aholic absentee father.  Growing older, with the young man having a job and children of his own, the father realizes his folly when his grown son now has no time for him.
Chorus: "And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.' When you coming home, son?' 'I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, dad.
You know we'll have a good time then.'"
     When I was about 20 years old the realization struck me that I was a poor college student and couldn’t afford any of the expensive "man-toys" my dad would like to have for his birthday, so I began buying him a steak lunch and taking it to him at work.  I would sit with  dad and his buddies at the lunch table, feeling completely out of place in the machine shop, but I enjoyed watching my dad smile as he bragged to all his coworkers about how good his steak was compared to their ham sandwiches.  It took me years to learn it wasn’t the steak dad was so proud of.
     This week was dad’s 58th birthday.  I’ve now had 15 years of steaks with dad, but things have changed a bit. With the prices of food and gas rising, I now spend over $100 and 8 hours driving on dad’s birthday lunch.  There are some positive changes though.  The first is that I only eat one steak per year and each year that steak tastes better and better.  The second change is that every year my dad’s smile gets bigger and brighter. Now thirdly, my eldest son is old enough to make the trip and appreciate the tradition.
     Graduates, I’ve listened to a lot of sad “Cats in the Cradle” stories from others lamenting that their successful children left to conquer the world and never looked back.  May your parents not find you too busy to remember and honor the ones who sacrificed to give you the opportunities for success you enjoy today.  Honor them, love them, and make time for them.  You’ll be glad you did.
From the wisdom of God in Proverbs 23:22 (KJV) “Hearken unto they father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.” 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Living Lesson: The Importance of "Do"

Living Lesson: April 6th, 2014
The Importance of “DO” – by Christopher Wiles

Monday afternoon my new older minivan picked up an unfamiliar passenger, a middle aged man that we'll call "Gary" for the sake of anonymity.  When Ashley spotted him, good ole Gary was stumbling and staggering around worse than a teenager waking up for school the morning after spring break.  While Ashley has never graced a bar with her presence or ever been drunk herself, the signs of inebriation were so obvious to her she knew the man to be in great need.

Gary quickly interrogated me as to the purpose of my stop.  Once he found out I served as a local congregation minister he declared  “I’m a religious man!  I have crosses and Bibles all over my house.  I’m a religious man!”  His declaration caused me to wonder, “I have crosses and Bibles too.  What makes me any different than Gary at this moment or others who own them?”

Gary answered it himself after my family taxied him the final mile to his home. My middle aged passenger made the rather astute evaluation when he said, “You’re not from here are you?”  I confessed my Tennessee boy origins which prompted his reply, “I thought so, nobody from here would DO what you just did.” 

While I disagree with Gary’s evaluation of local Hoosiers, he did draw a very distinct difference between us and the cross and Bible owners he’s used to.  The difference is in what we DO. 

My morning Bible reading today (Thursday) chauffeured my mental travels across Luke 10 and the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The expert of the law had asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  After the expert summed up the law with “Love the Lord your God… and Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied with “DO this and you will live.”  At the conclusion of the parable the expert declared the one who had mercy was the neighbor to the hurt man.  Instructing him to more than being an “expert in the law” Jesus instructed him to “Go and DO the same.” 

What separates us from the rest of the “religious experts” of the world?  Consider this small two letter word.  DO. 

What have you DOne, are you DOing, are you planning to DO to love God and your neighbors?  Really, spend time thinking about those questions.  Formulate a reply to them. After answering those questions, Go and DO in obedience to the Lord, His word, and your response.  You’ll be glad you did. 

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22

P.S. Have you got a special knack for helping alcoholics recover from the debilitating decline that dependence on drunkenness brings?  Let me know and I'll be glad to link you with "Gary" to help him DO all the Lord intends for his life.