Sunday, January 31, 2010

THMMC Up to Big Walker Recap

THMMC took a run up to Big Walker Lookout led by ohbuga. For me, it was an early start to the day with a quick run through a carwash to knock some loose stuff off. Little did I realize how futile it would be to spend that $2. From home, the first stop was to meet up in Winston-Salem with several other club members for the run up to Sparta, the official starting point. From home over to W-S had been cloudy but dry. Things changed quickly as we headed up 52 and then over to Sparta on some backroads. A light mist set in, the roads were wet throwing up lots of spray, and there was the occasional patch of snow on the side of the road just to let us know how cold it was. The boxy shape of our MINIs didn't help things from a cleanliness standpoint.

We got to Sparta and met at the Ship's Wheel restaurant. By the time we left, I counted a total of 22 MINIs. From there, we started the "official" part of the run. Unfortunately, we were not far along, on some nice twisties, when I thought I smelled something a little odd - maybe brakes or rubber burning? But then it faded away. For a few seconds. Coming around a curve I saw a couple MINIs pulling over to the side of the road. I followed suit and we soon discovered our first casualty of the day as whaner had a flat tire. Amazingly, their model happened to have a drop down spare. Things really got on track with the help of maacodale who apparently keeps and entire shop's worth of equipment in his Clubbie. We soon had the donut spare on and whaner was able to head back home for some fixing. The rest of us caught back up with the group waiting at a gas station. After a considerable delay.


From there, it was a run up through some great backcountry roads. I did get a kick out of a pickup truck that was trying mightily to keep pace with the run rather than pull over and the last six or so of us by. He finally turned off though and we were able to catch up.

Getting to Macado's in Marion we truly discovered just how filthy our MINIs had become. Not only were boots dirty, but sides, hoods, glass - everything. I think we may be able to lay claim to a new motto for the club - "THMMC - Dirtiest Club in the South". And we all got to commiserate over the thought of how many rock chips we might find after washing the crud off. Lunch was tasty and capped off with some cake provided by ZOOOOM!

Upon returning to the parking lot though, we discovered our second casualty when we found MiniCuse had a flat tire. Unfortunately, no spare for him. The good news is we were in town with a cell signal, so he was able to call for assistance. Alas, it was the end of the day for him as the rest of the group headed out.


Time for more twisties. This may have been the most enjoyable part of the run for me as it was largely uninterrupted and I was able to get into a nice groove. Plus, things were finally starting to dry off a bit.

The final few miles up Big Walker turned into a cloud bound journey as the summit was socked in. Nevertheless, after all that time and miles, I was determined to climb the tower. So, me and Sgt. Pepper showed why we are the El Presidente and Vice El Presidente and made it to the the top. With probably 50 mph winds and ice covering the towering and barely able to see the ground below from the cloud.

For all the challenges of doing a run in the middle of winter, it was still a great time. Got to see plenty of old friends and meet several new ones. And we will all have tales of a truly unique run.

Be sure to check out the rest of my photos in my gallery.

A Brief Noob Literary Analysis of Isaiah 40:6-7

This week for my Christianity study, Pastor Mark gave us an assignment focused on Isaiah 40:6-7 (ESV):
6A voice says, "Cry!"
And I said,"What shall I cry?"
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
7The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.

In our last chapter that we studied, we covered several literary conventions and how they are used in the Bible. Looking back through my notes and the chapter, the following conventions are what I'll analyze the passage for:

  • literal speech

  • figurative speech

  • simile

  • metaphor

  • parable

  • allegory

  • symbolism

  • prophecy

  • poetry

Not real sure whether prophecy is really a literary convention along the same lines as simile or metaphor. To me, in the list above, it stands out from the rest as not being a convention that is applicable to any other writing. So it is not so much a literary convention as a Biblical convention. But since it was covered in our lesson, I'll at least consider it anyway.

Literal speech. By literal speech, the question is whether the passage can be read literally. That is, with the simple, well-understood plain meanings of the words. The passage records the vision of Isaiah. To the extent that it is recording “history” I think it can be read literally. This really is the vision that Isaiah experienced. The only exception might be the first line, which could be figurative (see below).

Figurative speech. Are any of the words used in a way that is slightly different from the normal, plain meaning? Do they stand for something else? I tend to think not. The language is pretty straightforward and I don't think any of the words are used in a way that is different from what is written. I suppose there is the possibility that the first line, “A voice says, 'Cry!'” could be figurative in that it is describing a voice calling out, but perhaps not a physical sound that we would normally associate with hearing with our ears. Kind of like the sunrise I saw the other morning, which could have been described as the sky painted by God. In the same way, the voice described may not be an actual sound. Maybe.

Simile. Since simile is identified through the use of the words “like” or “as”, we can pretty easily spot the simile in the line “its beauty is like the flower of the field”. Following the line above, I suppose “its” could refer to either flesh or grass.

Metaphor. A more direct comparison than simile, this is indicated when a thing is described as being another thing. In this passage, I think there are a couple instances. First is the line “All flesh is grass”, the metaphor being that flesh is grass. The second occurs at the end when it is stated “the people are grass”. Here again, people are being compared to grass directly.

Parable. A parable is defined in our text as an extended simile and has a single main point. I think this passage probably does qualify as a parable. It is a very brief story about grass being beautiful, but it and flowers fade when the LORD blows on it. The point being that people (as grass) are the same – we will eventually wither and fade.

Allegory. An allegory is defined as an extended metaphor with different parts of the story representing different points. I think with the first and last lines of the story of grass being metaphorical statements, there is a strong temptation to see the whole passage as an allegory. But I'm not sure it really contains multiple meanings or multiple metaphors for different things. So I'm going to come down on the side of this not being an allegory.

Prophecy. As we discussed in class and in the text, Biblical prophecy is not foretelling the future. Rather, it plays one of two roles. Calling people (back) to a holy life and/or predicting blessing or judgment. I don't see anything in this passage that plays to either of those roles, so I'm going with no for prophecy.

Poetry. We had a whole section in our text about poetry, including how Hebrew poetry differs from English poetry. Given some of the conventions used to indicate poetry in modern Bibles, I suppose it is possible the passage was written in a poetical(???) manner. Not real sure on this one.

Have I ever mentioned that literature and English classes in high school were my most difficult subjects.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quick Note on Book of Eli

Last night my wife and I went to see The Book of Eli.  There were a couple times when I felt it was kind of pandering to a Mad Max'ish audience.  It was also a lot to take in and I believe I may need to watch it again (and again and again?) to see what I missed.  Anyway, don't want to go into too much about the movie at this point except to say that there are at least two twists at the end.  I had kind of figured one out, but they layered a twist on top of a twist (so maybe three twists).

It was interesting in light of some of the studying we've been doing the past couple weeks.  Especially in this week's reading (Chapter 3 of The Portable Seminary) and last week's about the languages of the Bible.  Looking back through this week's chapter, I think this quote from Dallas Willard (bottom of page 73) makes an interesting point to The Book of Eli:
"God has been willing and competent to arrange for the Bible, including its record of Jesus, to emerge and be preserved in ways that will secure his purposes for it among human beings worldwide."

I think anyone who sees the movie will understand how fitting that comment is.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ideal Languages

This past week in our Christianity study, Pastor Mark challenged us to a quick writing assignment during the class.  The question he posed to us was "how are the Biblical languages ideal for God to reveal himself to us?"  We went around the table and most everyone discussed or shared a little bit about what they wrote.  So, to kind of memorialize what I managed to slap down on the paper, here is what I had.

In order for God to reveal himself to us, he had to make sure the message would get to us.  This meant, among other things, that the Bible and all of the information in it had to survive over numerous centuries, peoples, technologies, and cultures.

To get things started, Hebrew was used and was ideal because it is a language that I call "pictoral based".  That is, it is good for describing the world - things, basic actions, this happened, that happened.  To some extent, it is a good storytelling language that would have been especially useful in a time when written words were rare and people relied instead on a spoken tradition.  And if you've ever done the whisper exercise, you know that keeping things simple is important.

I also tend to think of that time period as an "infancy" period for God's people.  In relative terms, those who believed in God were in a young period in history - like a little child.  Having had little children, I know that when teaching them to communicate, you have to start with basic words.  Mama. Papa. Ball. Apple. Dog. Run. Walk. Sit.  That is, words that describe the world and what the young child sees and experiences.  Much like the Hebrew language.  So this was ideal in preserving God's revealed message for the first few thousand years.

With the arrival of Jesus, a new language became necessary.  Greek.  Of course there were practical considerations that made it an ideal language.  It was a language that most people in that part of the world could communicate with, which helped in spreading the Word.  But for my "construct", a key component is that Greek was a language that could express higher level concepts and thoughts.  As our Portable Seminary text indicates, Greek was a very nuanced language that could convey lots of information (if I can get started on my Greek study, maybe I'll figure that out).

This new language was important as God's people (both Jew and Gentile) had reached a new age and to some extent had grown up.  With Jesus, it was now time for us to start to learn how to think about applying God's laws and revelations in a way beyond mechanical adherence to an ordinance.  So being able to describe and communicate how we think and feel and what motivates us became important.  Again, this is similar to a child growing up.  As they get older, at least in school, they start getting into abstract concepts and ideas.

OK, I think that is probably all I'll get to tonight.  Seems like I had something to wrap this up with, but my brain has spaced out on me.  I'll have some more entries later this week - a little something from our A Guide to Prayer that we use in Sunday School and I need to start a bit about my lifestyle change (yeah, that's a fancy way to discuss losing weight!).  And no, I haven't proofed this before hitting the Publish button.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Third Test of a Twitter Updater

Whew - wish this stuff just worked!

Sola Fide - By Faith Alone

As mentioned in previous posts, as part of my Christianity study, Pastor Mark is encouraging us to write about the experience and what we are learning.  That is just a good tool/method to use in learning.  Earlier this week, he suggested that we write about one of the five solas that we discussed last Sunday.  Since then, I've been tossing around ideas in my head and trying to pay attention to some materials about the solas in an effort to figure out what to write about.  For instance, I recognized a similarity in Latin terms between bona fide and sola fide.

Last night I happened to do a search on Facebook for Friends meetings.  An exercise in curiosity since the church I attend has its roots in Quakerism.  I didn't really find much (there was a Durham meeting with a fairly active page), but it did lead me to a Wikipedia page about the Religious Society of Friends (and yes, I am well aware of the hazards of using Wikipedia as any kind of authoritative source).  On that page, the authors suggested that some lines of Quakerism reject sola Scriptura and believe instead that God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit and not necessarily only through the Scripture. That seems like it might be an interesting topic to explore a little further if just in an effort to understand a little bit more about what makes a Quaker a Quaker.

I suppose the proper "scholarly" thing to do would be to come up with some kind of hypothesis about one of the solas and research and write about it.  Pastor Mark sent us a link to a video by D.A. Carson about evangelicism that mentions the solas.  One of the quotes that Mark liked from the video was the idea "It is possible to be an Evangelical confessionally and not be reborn."  Mark asks us who that sounds like and I really have no idea where he is going with that.  Nevertheless, I think that concept is in line with my thoughts about sola fide and what may be a lack of (personal) faith in so many Christians.

I should probably back up a bit though, and touch on that idea of being reborn.  That sounds to me like the concept from the "simple" definition of evangelical that we established.  The simple definition is that evangelicals believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and in personal conversion.  Personal conversion seems to be similar to "being reborn".  But just what is being reborn?  Could one proclaim to be reborn but not really experience a personal conversion?  How would one know?  Mark has spoken repeatedly about some people who keep "going to the alter" to claim their rebirth and keep repeating that - obviously they are making the confession but not achieving the conversion.

Expanding on the simple definition, we looked at a longer definition of evangelicism that is based on five solas:

  • sola fide - by faith alone

  • sola gracia - only by God's grace

  • sola Scriptura - only by God's word

  • solus Christus - through Christ only

  • soli Deo Gloria - only for the glory of God

From this, we get the idea that one experiences a personal conversion through, among  other tenants, faith alone.  Perhaps on the surface, this is merely a reflection of the reform movement's position that one did not buy or earn their way into Heaven through works.  One could look to the Wikipedia page for some discussion on how this sola fits into the reform movement.  I also did a search and quickly found long expositions (Jesus' Perspective on Sola Fide, John MacArthur and Sola Fide: Does It Really Matter, Dr. John H. Armstrong) that claim sola fide is the central tenant to evangelical Christianity.  They cite numerous examples in the Bible that support this idea, such as these words of Jesus from John 5:24:

24Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

The question I am more interested in is, assuming one accepts that faith alone is necessary to achieve eternal life, how do you really achieve faith?  In my case, I think I have achieved that inner personal belief that my faith is sufficient.  By extension, while I am always looking out for ways to perform "works", it is not in an effort to shore up my faith or balance it out in case my faith is not enough.  Rather, I think it is because of my faith that I end up engaging in "works".

And one of the interesting byproducts of my faith seems to be a peace with this world.  So many people seem to be worried about so much stuff on both a personal level and at other levels (e.g. political, social).  But if one has faith and really believes that through that faith they will achieve eternal life, is there really any need to worry?  This seems to be a bit of the question that Dr. Carson raises in the video.

Have I really figured anything out?  Or just rambled a bit?

Update: I guess it is a good thing this is more of a free flowing type of writing that can be edited and updated as time goes on.  As I finished up some studying tonight, I remembered two things about sola fide that I thought should be included.  One courtesy my own memory, one thanks to a prompt from Pastor Mark in the form of notes from last week.

First, in my notes I ran across something I had scribbled down about sola fide - that a good verse to point to as its source is Ephesians 2:8 -
8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

It seems like it actually combines both sola fide and sola gracia.  "Saved through faith" seems to be pretty clear.  On my own I happened to stumble upon this passage from 1 Timothy 1:12 -
12I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,

As noted in that passage, Christ Jesus rewarded Paul as he had been faithful.  And it makes me wonder whether God, in some very small way, led me to find that passage?

The other thing I had wanted to mention goes back to the book If You Want To Walk On Water, You've Got To Get Out Of The Boat by John Ortberg, which I read last fall.  The book focuses on the story of Peter walking on water when Jesus calls to him from the storm.  Peter's faith in Jesus enables him to walk on water.  But on his way, the following occurs:
30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him,  "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. - Matthew 14:30-32

Notice what was important to keeping Peter from sinking? Faith. And when he started to doubt, he started to sink.  Fortunately for him, Jesus was right there to take hold of him.  As I had touched on earlier, it seems in this day, there are many Christians who worry about all kinds of issues.  It makes me wonder if they have lost their faith, which is going to lead to them sinking.  So the Reformers, based on the little bit I read, seemed to focus on the concept of sola fide as a way to counter the position of the established church (ie the Roman Catholic church) that "works" were also necessary.  But over time it seems the focus has shifted somewhat to being part of the "personal conversion" experience.  And as Dr. Carson noted, it seems we may have some who confess to being converted, but perhaps in reality have not yet reached that point. I would agree and it seems that may be part of the reason why some Christians don't seem to be able to experience the peace of their faith.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Warming up

OK, I may not get caught up on writing about the first couple weeks of my Christianity Study.  But then again...  It has been a long, tiring week as I have been handling logistics for some on-site training at my job and attending the training itself.  This meant doing some work at home.  I really don't like resorting to that as I committed a while back to not letting work creep into my personal time.  Every now and then - like this week when there are some unusual circumstances - I'll make an exception.  But I still don't like it.

I have managed to start getting into the habit of studying starting at 10:00 each evening.  I told my wife a couple weeks ago, there is never anything on TV during the 10 o'clock hour (not much otherwise, though I have a few shows I watch regularly) and instead of sitting around vegging out, it would be a good time to do something useful.  So far, so good.  I've almost finished working through this week's assignment in The Portable Seminary.

I've also been scribbling notes here and there about our writing assignment for this week.  Pastor Mark forwarded a link to a video of Dr. D.A. Carson about evangelism (have to study up on that definition) that I need to watch and he made some comments about the part about the solas (soli?).

I'm thinking I'm going to write about sola fide.  Not sure why I ultimately selected that one.  Maybe to me faith is where one starts to practically experience Christ in this world?  Hmm, maybe that should be the topic of my assignment. Considering the video link and notes, I was thinking about putting together something about faith and whether Christians really have it or is it just a word they bandy about.  Maybe I can combine all of this.

As an aside, in my training today we ran across the word bona fide (talking about bona fide offers and contracts).  I picked right up on the similarity - sola fide and bona fide - solely faith and good faith.  Mainly just thought it was interesting how a little bit of studying might help one see even the smallest of things that they wouldn't have otherwise.

And I'll probably need to add a new category here - Greek.  I finally did it - ordered the Elementary Greek lessons (I just got the workbook and textbook, not the whole kit) from  This has been a project/goal of mine that has only been delayed for about a year.  The idea is to teach myself Greek so I can then read the New Testament in the original Greek.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yikes! - Writing Assignment

Got an e-mail this morning from Pastor Mark.  I gather he is wanting us to complete a writing assignment since he starts out saying, "A possibility to write a page or so..."  He has suggested we pick a sola and write about it.  What is a sola you ask?  I will explain.  Later.  First I need to catch up on writing about the first week and some of the things we covered.  Then I can get into the, soli.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wake UP!!!

Welcome to my new blog. I've started this as a way to write about a journey that I am starting in 2010, which is a journey to being a “Prepared Christian”. At least, that is the title of the study that my pastor has selected and it works for me. You can find his vision for the journey over at the Graham Friends web site.  Keep in mind that even though I say I am "starting" a new journey in 2010, it really is just a continuation of a journey I have been on in recent years.  Now, I can't really explain what that journey is.  Perhaps by the time I finish this study I'll be able to articulate the bigger effort I'm engaged in to be closer to God and figure out how I should be living (and hopefully do).

The description sounds like a good match for where I think I need to go in my spiritual development.  That's probably part of why I jumped right on it as soon as I learned Pastor Mark was planning to do it. There are some practical applications that may become relevant as well. The first most obvious one being my “assignment” (not really an assignment since I volunteered) to help co-lead a Sunday School class. I've been doing some research on the passages for each week. I suppose I probably learn more than most people just from that effort, but I doubt I'll ever get to the point that I really feel comfortable as the “leader” on the readings. Maybe after going through this Prepared Christian study that will change and I'll feel more confident in stepping up to the plate.  That makes me wonder whether Moses ever felt comfortable with the role God gave to him.

Another area where it may help me some is with a project where I've hooked up with some fellow MINI owners who want to create/encourage a Christian Motoring Club (kind of a subset of MINI owners). Really interesting timing as the ball started rolling on that only a couple days before I started this Prepared Christian study.  So, this may help me with that. I'm hoping (again) the study will give me some confidence to step up and do some of the things that I think I should be doing when our local club holds activities.  For example, on the occasions when we do overnight weekend runs, I could lead a short session on Sunday morning for those of us away from our local churches (and often up long before any Sunday service is being held wherever we are).

In another interesting bit of timing, my wife and I had given our kids some new devotionals for Christmas presents.  We had decided that we would start doing them most nights with our kids.  My responsibility was to handle the sessions with my son.  Maybe this journey I am on will rub off on him and the journey that he is on (even though he probably is not aware he is traveling).  Did you notice the bit on Pastor Mark's description about being a prepared Christian:
What if someone asked you a question about your faith that you couldn't answer—even if the question was asked in a children's Sunday School class?

My son already threw one of those my way - "why is it called the Old Testament?"  Hmm.

So that is just a brief introduction to the blog and what I'm doing.  I actually have some other faith related activities I'll be pursuing in 2010 and will probably roll in some writing about them here as well.  Until the next post though, I have to get crackin' on my reading assignment in The Portable Seminary.