Monday, August 30, 2010

Introducing a New Feature: Mondays with Marty

Last week I began reading Off the Record with Martin Luther, which is the most comprehensive translation of Luther's Table Talk into English.For those not familiar with it, Table Talk is a collection of sayings, stories, etc. attributed to Martin Luther as recorded by his students as they spent time in his home. This particular edition provides a vivid English translation that captures Luther in all of his irascible glory. It has proved to be tremendous leisure reading, often leading me to laugh out loud and insist my wife hear the latest gem I have discovered.

So in the interest of sharing these gems with you, I am beginning a new feature on the blog entitled "Mondays with Marty." Each Monday I will share a quote from Martin Luther as a way of kick starting the week.These quotes will run the gamut from serious and profound to hilarious and silly, with points in between. To prepare you for this experience, it seems wise to quote from the Foreword by Paul Maier:
Fair warning to the reader: in the Table Talk, Luther is at his unwary best and not hindered by such niceties as prudence, propriety, etiquette, or convention. Some of the material is salty, saucy, and even "over the top." At such passages it would be well to remember that Luther himself did not write this material or sign-off on it. It is all recorded by his eager students, who somehow managed to eat meat and potatoes at Luther's table, yet also take copious notes on whatever he said. (pp. 6-7)
Also, just to be clear, I will place a disclaimer at the end of each post to indicate that the views reflected in these quotes do not necessarily reflect my own views. So with that out of the way, we are ready for our first installment:
12. Women should be honored. The Holy Spirit honors women. Examples of that are Esther and Sarah. Among the pagans, Lucretia and Artemisia were glorified. Without women there would be no marriage. The best medicine against fornication is to get married. A woman is the best companion for life. Women bring children into the world, they raise them, and they rule the house. They are inclined to be merciful, because they are made that way by God, to bear children, to bring joy to men, to be merciful.
DISCLAIMER: The views reflected in this quote do not necessarily reflect those of the author of this blog. This quote is shared in the interest of edification, education, and/or humor.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Now Available - She Must and Shall Go Free: Paul's Isaianic Gospel in Galatians

Looking for the cure to insomnia? Or perhaps have an extra $140 burning a hole in your pocket that you are just desperate to spend? Then I have good news for you. My dissertation has now been published and is available for purchase. Here is a brief description:

Scholars have long recognized the importance of Paul´s citations from the Pentateuch for understanding the argument of Galatians. But what has not been fully appreciated is the key role that Isaiah plays in shaping what Paul says and how he says it, even though he cites Isaiah explicitly only once (Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4:27). Using an intertextual approach to trace more subtle appropriations of Scripture (i.e., allusions, echoes and thematic parallels), Harmon argues that Isaiah 49-54 in particular has shaped the structure of Paul´s argument and the content of his theological reflection in Galatians. Each example of Isaianic influence is situated within its original context as well as its new context in Galatians. Attention is also paid to how those same Isaianic texts were interpreted in Second Temple Judaism, providing the larger interpretive context within which Paul read Scripture. The result is fresh light shed on Paul´s self-understanding as an apostle to the Gentiles, the content of his gospel message, his reading of the Abraham story and the larger structure of Galatians.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pastoral Pensées: Motivations to Appeal to in Our Hearers When We Preach for Conversion by D.A. Carson

In the most recent issue of Themelios, D.A. Carson has written a stimulating article on appealing to heart motives in our preaching. Although his focus is on heart motives in unbelievers, he helpfully stresses that these same motivations are present in believers as well. Here is an outline to whet your appetite:

A Survey of Possible Heart Motivations
  1. Fear
  2. The Burden of Guilt
  3. Shame
  4. The Need for "Future Grace"
  5. The Attractiveness of Truth
  6. A General, Despairing Sense of Need
  7. Responding to Grace and Love
  8. A Rather Vague Desire to be on the Right Side of What is Right, of What is from God, of What is Biblical, of What is Clean, or What Endures
He then offers Four Theological and Pastoral Reflections on This Survey
  1. We do not have the right to choose only one of these motivations in people and to appeal to it restrictively.
  2. On the other hand, we may have the right to emphasize one motivation more than others.
  3. Nevertheless, the comprehensiveness of our appeal to diverse motivations will reflect the comprehensiveness of our grasp of the gospel.
  4. To put this another way, all of the biblically sanctioned motivations for pursuing God, for pursuing Christ, say complementary things about God himself, such that failure to cover the sweep of motivations ultimately results in diminishing God.
As usual, Carson helps us to think through the high calling of preaching the riches of the gospel to the poverty of sinfulness. I highly encourage you to read this short but valuable article.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Review of Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word by Douglas A. Sweeney

In the latest issue of Themelios, which is now available, you can find my review of Douglas A. Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought. Here's my summary evaluation:
In sum, this is a book that will benefit every Christian. But pastors, missionaries, theological students, and everyone else in vocational ministry especially should read this book. In fact, if you can only read one book on Jonathan Edwards, make it this one. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Zambia Wrap Up

I have now been back in the United States for about a week after my three weeks in Africa. I want to thank all of you who prayed for my time there. I am convinced that God blessed this trip, and one of the means he used to do so was your prayers.
As a way of wrapping up my trip, I wanted to share a few things that God taught me through this trip. Some of these are things God reminded me of, while others were new. I've listed them in no particular order:
  1. There is great strategic value in providing theological training for those who are native to a culture. As with any short-term mission project, there is a limited amount that can be accomplished. But I believe that one thing that can be accomplished effectively is providing theological training to those who are serving in their native culture. The men and women I had the privilege of teaching will go to various parts of Zambia, Angola, and perhaps even other places in Africa with the gospel. They will be far more effective that I as a white American could ever hope to be because they are already cultural insiders. As some of you know, when I began to sense God leading me to a ministry of teaching, preaching, writing, research, etc. I always had the desire to play a part in training people in parts of the world where theological education is difficult to acquire. It was so kind of God to allow me to at last see that desire begin to be fulfilled.
  2. The kingdom of God often advances in small, sometimes even unnoticed, steps. We naturally gravitate towards the large steps, or the big displays of sudden growth such as outbreaks of revival. And there is no question we should pray for that. But as we wait for those large explosions of kingdom growth, we must remain faithful in what God has called us to, knowing that we often do not fully recognize what God is doing in our midst.
  3. The health of the Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia is strong. From what I am told, some observers even claim that the Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia is perhaps the healthiest in the world. I am in no position to make that assessment, but I can say that there are a number of strong, healthy Reformed Baptist churches that continue to birth new churches.
  4. Determining the best use of my time, energy, gifts and abilities is becoming increasingly difficult. I believe that my time in Zambia will prove very strategic. At the same time, I also believe that the writing projects that I basically put on hold to go will prove helpful to the body of Christ. It is this very collision between "on the field" ministry and "in the study" ministry that I continue to experience. I recognize that the answer is not to simply choose one and neglect the other. But the challenge comes in knowing which opportunities to accept and which ones to say no.
  5. It is not good for a man to be alone. The hardest part of the three weeks was the extended time away from Kate and my boys. This was the longest time that I have been away from them in our 14+ years of marriage, and I hope that this is a mark that will never be exceeded. I was grateful for the fellowship I had with other missionaries and their families while there in Zambia, but it is simply no replacement for my own wife and sons.
While this is far from a comprehensive list of what God taught me, it does capture several of the most important things. May God use this trip to further the advance of the gospel in parts of the world that I myself will never see. To him be the glory for any fruit that is borne.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Meet My Students at Theological College o Central Africa (TCCA)

Although I am teaching just two more days before leaving, I wanted to introduce you to the students I have been teaching here at the Theological College of Central Africa (TCCA - affectionately called "Teeka"). Here is a picture I took this morning:
From Left to Right: Me, Jose Lausu Leonardo, Donald Munachoonga, Charity Kombe, Terence Kombe, David Matolokoshi, Mercy Rukundo

Let me tell you a little bit about each of them so you can be praying for them:
  • Jose Lausu Leonardo: Jose is my only student not from Zambia; he is instead from Angola. He has already been actively involved in ministry there, helping to train people to take the gospel into the school system and reaching out into remote villages that have yet to be reached with the Gospel. He is single, but praying for God to give him a helper suitable for him.
  • Donald Munachoonga: Donald is married but as of yet has no children. He asks good questions and makes perceptive comments in class.
  • Terence & Charity Kombe: This married couple has a four-year old daughter. They are preparing for full time ministry, but are not sure where. Terence is also a very good athlete.
  • David Matolokoshi: David is a single man who is also preparing for full-time ministry, though he was actively serving in his church before coming to TCCA. He is very thoughtful and asks good questions that make me think.
  • Mercy Rukundo: Although she is rather quiet in class, she is an excellent student. Her husband Paul is a second year student here at TCCA as well. They have a son named Shalom.
All of these students are in their first year here at TCCA. The class I am teaching is part of their core curriculum. It has been such a joy to introduce them afresh to the person of Jesus Christ as he is revealed in each of the Gospels. I think the greatest joy I experience as a professor/teacher is helping students to see or understand something for the first time, and observe the joy of discovering something new. I have had that privilege several times thus far.

Their final exam is on Thursday, and I know they would appreciate your prayers for them. Pray that God will use what they are learning to build a foundation for a lifetime of faithful love for and service to Christ. They will be taking the gospel to places that most of us will never see, and it has been a privilege to play a small part in equipping them for that task.

Friday afternoon I leave for the United States, and arrive late Saturday afternoon in Denver. Please pray for smooth travels and no delays as I am eager to see my family. Thanks so much for all of you who have prayed for me and my students during this trip.