March 26, 2009

Top Ten Babes of the Bible

As a teacher of Scripture, who is also a single guy in his early 30s, the topic of women in the Bible is one that I would like to address in a different light than your typical Liz Curtis Higgs/Beth Moore/Kay Arthur approach. Most discussions of women in the Bible are written by women, to women and for women and usually center on life lessons one can glean from these heroines of the faith (or in the case of Liz's studies, those "bad girls"...or "slightly bad girls"...or if you want to get extreme, those "REALLY bad girls"!).

While studies like that are well and good (except for the ones that take 21st century Western social/political/professional issues and read them back into ancient near east narrative settings...i.e. "business managment lessons from the life of Ruth" or "7 principles of Biblical dating", etc.! In fact, whenever you come across anything titled "__# Principles of Biblical ___", just keep on walking...your bank account as well as your spiritual development will thank you in the long run.) they are usually of very little interest to my demographic. So having realized that there is almost nothing written on women in the Bible from the perspective of us single guys who agree with the extremely self-evident "He who finds a wife finds what is good..." (Pro 18:22 TNIV), I've decided to take a stab at it.

Here is my list of Top Ten Babes of the Bible.

Disclaimer: If for some reason you are offended by or object to the term "babe" in describing a woman, just substitute the Hebrew term יְפַת־מַרְאֶה and that should make it more palatable.

10. Esther
The obligatory choice for any list of Bible babes. She was literally the winner of the greatest Persian beauty contest of all well as savior of the Jews who remained in exile there. She was brave in doing her duty even though it might mean death at the hands of King Ahasuerus (or as he's more popularly known, King Xerxes...yes, that's right, the same King Xerxes from the movie "300"! Picture him from now on when you study Esther in your small group if you want to liven up discussion!). There's no way a list like this could exist without Esther. However, the other babe in that book often gets totally overlooked...

9. Vashti
Not only was Vashti so beautiful that Ahasuerus wanted to parade her in front of a banquet of his drunken buddies (making her literally the ultimate Persian trophy wife!), but she had the self-respect and confidence enough to basically tell the most powerful man on the face of the earth, "Yeah right! Find somebody else, jerk! I'm outta here!" (That's the JMS version of the text. To read it yourself, just flip to Esther 1:10-12)

8. Eve
Now usually Eve gets a bad rap because of the whole eating-of-the-fruit-and-thus-introducing-sin-into-humanity thing. HOWEVER, it should be noted that Adam was right there with her and could've stomped on the snake's head the moment it messed with his lady, like any good husband should do! But blame-game aside, think about it...Eve was literally hand-made by God Himself to be the perfect woman for Adam. You know she was a babe, pre-Fall...and probably post-Fall as well. Plus, she never had to go through any awkward adolescent phase, so she was literally a babe from the moment her life began. That's impressive. As is the fact that two of her three sons mentioned by name turned out to be the epitome of Godliness. Not bad for a woman with absolutely ZERO role models or mentors when it comes to the complexities of being wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother...[continue on for 900 years or so and you get the picture]!

7. Young Rebekah
This isn't an age issue (as you'll see with my #1 pick!), it's just that she ended up being pretty manipulative and destructive to her family later in life. However, that does not take away from the fact that in her early years, Rebekah was literally answered prayer when Abraham's servant was sent to find Isaac the best wife there was. Not only was she quite "fetching" physically...she was quite "fetching" when it came to the all-important ancient near east task of water-provision! Check out Gen 24:15-21 for the full story of this Bible babe.

6. Joanna/Junia
(Luke 8:1/Rom.16:7) If, as some NT scholars have concluded, the Joanna in Luke's Gospel who was the wife of Herod's cupbearer and the Junia of Romans 16 are in fact the same person, then this is indeed one impressive lady who fully deserves Bible babe status! She was not only Judean nobility, but she was also an Apostle whom Paul himself gave props to.

Here's a quick summary of the evidence for linking the two from Ben Witherington's "What Have They Done With Jesus?"

"The Latin name Junia is infact equivalent to the Hebrew Joanna." Page

"First Paul tells us, by calling Junia his “kin,” that she is Jewish, not Roman. Second, Paul reveals that he knows this couple intimately: they had done time together, apparently imprisoned because of their work as ministers and missionaries. This is actually quite unusual. Criminal women were generally not jailed but were put under house arrest, unless they had done something notorious to offend a city’s officials. Paul appears to be suggesting that Junia and her husband were, as he was, ringleaders of the “notorious” Christian sect that was causing so much trouble throughout the empire.

..and most importantly, the couple are said to be “notable [or, depending on the translation, prominent or outstanding] among the apostles.

…the context suggests that by “apostle” Paul means the same thing here that he means when he applies the term to himself, since he is describing itinerant missionaries who did time with him courtesy of the Roman system of jurisprudence." Page 19

"In sum, Paul is writing about a Jewish woman called Junia (but presumably named Joanna in Hebrew) who was an early, close, and prominent follower of Jesus, who witnessed Jesus’s resurrection, and who then boldly spread the gospel. Might she be the Joanna of Luke’s gospel? I believe she is. One could ask, “But what happened to
Chuza?” I suspect that he divorced Joanna and she then remarried a Christian named Andronicus, with whom she undertook missionary work that took her to the heart of the empire (and, at least once, to jail). It’s easy to see why Chuza would have divorced a woman who was using his money to chase after a radical prophet who had insulted his boss. In the honor-and-shame culture in which they lived, Herod Antipas would hardly have retained Chuza as an estate agent if Chuza had retained Joanna as his wife! The divorce might also explain why Joanna was free to follow Jesus to Jerusalem for Passover in the year 30.
I admit it takes a certain amount of detective work to connect Joanna with Junia. Nevertheless, the links are plausible. They are strengthened by the fact that Junia must have been part of the original circle of followers of Jesus in Jerusalem if indeed she was “in Christ” before Paul’s conversion in A.D. 34-35. This was before there was a mission outside of Israel, never mind a mission to Gentiles. Furthermore, Luke presents Joanna as a bold and prominent disciple, and Paul’s Junia is similarly characterized." Page 20

5. Abigail
In addition to being a good looking lady, Abigail also had a quick wit and an excellent sense of humor. In 1Samuel 25 we find her story...and it's a good one. First of all, she's the trophy wife of this rich moron named Nabal. He's the epitome of the spoiled rich kid all grown up. His name also happens to literally mean "moron/fool"! (Why do girls always fall for the worst guys, you ask? I don't know...but it's nothing new apparently.)
So Nabal ends up turning up his nose at King David and unknowingly signing his own death warrant at the hands of David's men. But Abigail steps in and prevents David from doing something rash by basically saying about Nabal, "Bless his heart"...which any of you know what that means if you're from the south. (1Sa 25:24-25) After saving Nabal's behind from David, she goes home and tells him what she did and he's so embarrassed that he becomes comatose and dies ten days later. David hears about it and asks Abigail to marry him, which she does. The only downfall is once again, she has married a rich jerk! (He was already married when he asked her...which is a strict no-no according to Deuteronomy 12:12)

4. Jael
I can't speak for every guy, but there's nothing more attractive than a woman who can take care of herself...and "take care of" a bad guy if the need arises (after all, how else can you explain the popularity of shows like "Alias", "Dark Angel", "Tomb Raider" video games among the 18-35 yr old male population, right?). And of all the Babes in the Bible who could do this, none did it better, or more shrewdly than Jael. (Jdg 4:17-22)

3.The woman of Shullam
Number 3 on the list belongs to a woman so amazing that she gets an entire book devoted to her...and written primarily from HER perspective. The woman in the Song of Songs is never named. All we know is that she is from Shullam, or a Shullammite--but even this tells us nothing because we don't exactly know what this means (every commentator pretty much is forced to make an educated guess about it along with MANY other things in the Song...don't let them fool you into thinking otherwise!).
We also know that she is not the classical beauty, but rather the everyday variety of beauty. She's the ultimate girl next door! Don't believe me? Check out Song of Songs 1:5-6. And in addition to all that, she has a fully robust and healthy view of God's greatest gift to humanity besides His Son, sexual intimacy as it's supposed to be enjoyed. That's all I can say without making the Dojo into an "adult content" site for the moment; so if you want all the details, read the song for yourself...just make sure you have a good commentary and/or Bible dictionary handy so you can catch all the innuendo and euphamism found in its pages...

Despite an extremely unfortunate sounding name by modern standards, Abishag was definitely a babe in the Bible. When old King David was fading in health, his advisors knew exactly what had always got David's engine revving in the past and decided that this would be the perfect remedy--find the best looking young lady in the kingdom and have her lay in bed with him and keep him warm and tend to his needs. (But given David's notorious relationships in the past with beautiful women, can you really blame them for thinking otherwise??)
The winner of this jackpot of creepiness was Abishag. But what makes her really attractive is that she did her job WITHOUT having to compromise her purity with the ancient near east Hugh Hefner! (1Ki 1:2-4) Well done, Abishag; well done indeed!

Honorable Mention: Apochryphal Babes!
Before we get to number 1 on the list, I want to pause to give a shout-out to my Catholic friends by noting some of the amazing women found in the Apochrypa. The Apochrypha (or Deutero-canonical) books are those books with weird names (Bel and the Dragon??) that are found in Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, or secular academic Bibles. It's unfortunate that more protestants don't read them because they are actually really good books and contain a tremendous amount of historical and cultural knowledge that brings to light much of the New Testament, as well as Judaism in general (ever heard of Hanukkah??). They are all books written originally by Jews in the Greek language during the time between the last OT Hebrew book (Malachi or Chronicles) and the birth of John the Baptist. They have numerous stories of women doing really cool, clever or heroic things and I'll just point out 3 of them...well, 2.5 actually! You'll see...

Susanna 1:1-63 tells the brief account of how Susanna was so much of a babe that two elders tried to blackmail her into sleeping with them. She knew that they could lie and sentence her to death, but she chose to face death rather than to sin against God sleeping with them. Eventually the elders are discovered to be lying by Daniel, who interrogates them, and Susanna's prayer to God for justice and vindication is answered dramatically.

Judith is the Jael of the Apochrypha. Here story is found in the book of (surprise!) Judith. I don't want to spoil the story for those who haven't read it, but the jist of it is that Judith the beautiful widow is able to bring down a mighty Assyrian in a way that would make Angelina Jolie's character in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" proud! (The heart of the story if found in Judith chs. 8-14)

Okay, so even though she's not technically an actual woman, Lady Wisdom is described briefly in the OT (Pro 9:1-6), and more fully in the Apochryphal book "The Wisdom of Solomon" as the Babe of all Babes. Here's a sample:

12 Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
13 She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
14 One who rises early
to seek her will have no difficulty,

for she will be found sitting at the gate.
(Wis 6:12-14)

24 For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates
all things.
25 For she is a breath of the power of God,

and a pure emanation of the glory of the

therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
26 For she is a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
27 Although she is but one, she can do all things,

and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
28 for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.
29 She is more beautiful than the sun,

and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
30 for it is succeeded by the night,

but against wisdom evil does not prevail.
8:1 She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,

and she orders all things well.
2 I loved her and sought her from my youth;

I desired to take her for my bride,
and became enamored of her beauty.
(Wis 7:24-8:2)

And finally, the title of number 1 Babe in the Bible goes to...

Now I know what you're thinking..."Sarah? As in Abraham's wife?? She was like 90 years old! How can she be number 1??" But rest assured, Sarah was the most gorgeous 90 year old you'll ever meet! Seriously, she was so much of a babe that not once, BUT TWICE, she was noticed and desired by foreign kings! Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world at the time, desired her and took her for his wife becasue he thought she was Abraham's sister...a plan that Abraham himself had come up with because he knew how much of a babe Sarah was and that kings would literally kill him for her. (Gen 12:14-16) Years later, he still had not learned his lesson...and Sarah was STILL a babe who caught the eye of King Abimelek. (Gen 20:1-3)
Yes, Sarah indeed deserves the title number 1 babe in the Bible. For, like Racquel Welch or Vanna White, she remained a babe no matter how many years went by!

So there you go. That's my top 10. Fellas, I'd be interested to hear your feedback and if you have anyone I missed or would like to dispute any of my choices.

Ladies, I'd be interested to hear your feedback as well...unless it's complaining about the impropriety or irrelevance of such a list in a Christian setting. If that's the case, I have a number of blog sites I'd be happy to direct you to that were started for the sole purpose of bashing other Christians whom they disagree with... ;)

Always having fun in the Dojo,

March 17, 2009

St. Patrick = One of the coolest cats in Church history

For most, St. Patrick's day is all about wearing green, downing cheap beer and trying to convince people of one's Irish ethnicity in order to receive some smoochin'. Having been born and raised in Savannah, I know all about St. Patty's and celebrated it every year with my family. Mom would make green pancakes and I would put on my plastic green bowler hat as we headed out the door to go watch the parade through the squares. (Only later as I got older did I realize that St. Patty's doesn't really begin until sundown for most of the half-million visitors to the city each year...)

Despite celebrating it my entire life, and despite actually looking like a grown-up leprechaun myself, it wasn't until seminary that I actually learned Patrick's story and what he did for the history of Christianity. For instance, every time you see a celtic cross, you're seeing the legacy of Patrick.

For those of you in the Dojo who have never truly heard Patrick's story, check out this article. Here's an excerpt:

Patrick was 16 years old in about the year 405, when he was captured in a raid and became a slave in what was still radically pagan Ireland. Far from home, he clung to the religion he had ignored as a teenager. Even though his grandfather had been a priest, and his father a town councilor, Patrick "knew not the true God." But forced to tend his master's sheep in Ireland, he spent his six years of bondage mainly in prayer. He escaped at the suggestion of a dream and returned home.

Patrick was in his mid-40s when he returned to Ireland.Palladius had not been very successful in his mission, and the returning former slave replaced him. Intimately familiar with the Irish clan system (his former master, Milchu, had been a chieftain), Patrick's strategy was to convert chiefs first, who would then convert their clans through their influence. Reportedly, Milchu was one of his earliest converts.

Though he was not solely responsible for converting the island, Patrick was quite successful. He made missionary journeys all over Ireland, and it soon became known as one of Europe's Christian centers.
Here's how Patrick begins his only surviving written work, "The Confessio":

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.
2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.
3. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.

Christian History magazine spent a whole issue exploring Celtic Christianity and Patrick in particular which you can find online at

It would be pretty sweet if Christians took the lead in celebrating what God did through Patrick each year in contrast to the uninformed revelry that has come to symbolize his memory, don't you think? Let's pay homage to our brother in Christ who paved the way for the Gospel to spread to so many of our (okay, at least MY) ancestors. :)

Erin Go Bragh!


March 16, 2009

For everyone who's dealt with depression or other mental illnesses...

As someone who's battled depression and anxiety myself, I couldn't NOT share this song with everyone else who's gone through the dark night of the soul. Listen to the lyrics and then share it with someone else you know who's struggled with depression or other mental illnesses.


March 15, 2009

Weekly Facebook Scripture

אַתָּה יְהוָה לֹא־תִכְלָא רַחֲמֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי

חַסְדְּךָ וַאֲמִתְּךָ תָּמִיד יִצְּרוּנִי

כִּי אָפְפוּ־עָלַי רָעוֹת עַד־אֵין מִסְפָּר

הִשִּׂיגוּנִי עֲוֹנֹתַי

וְלֹא־יָכֹלְתִּי לִרְאוֹת

עָצְמוּ מִשַּׂעֲרוֹת רֹאשִׁי

וְלִבִּי עֲזָבָנִי

רְצֵה יְהוָה לְהַצִּילֵנִ

יְהוָה לְעֶזְרָתִי חוּשָׁה

"You, O LORD, do not withhold your compassion from me;

may your faithful devotion continually guard me.

12 For evils beyond counting surround me;

my iniquities have caught up with me,

and I’m unable to see.

They are more than the hairs of my head,

and my heart has forsaken me.

13 Be pleased, O LORD, to rescue me;

O LORD come quickly to deliver me."

(Psa 40:11-13)

God is concerned with hearing and obeying rather than religious piety.

He always has been and He always will be.

He wants the law to be in the heart of His people.
We often think of this as something that comes into existence only in the New Testament, but that is based on ignorance of the Hebrew Scriptures and centuries-old stereotypes rather than on the Biblical text itself. When Jesus called people to inner holiness and devotion to God, He wasn’t introducing a new concept; He was calling God’s people back to the God who had delivered them from slavery into freedom and had chosen them to be a light to the whole world through their relationship with Him.

This relationship would be characterized by Ḥesed (חֶסֶד) or “Faithful devotion.” Though sometimes translated as “loving-kindness”, “steadfast love”, or “mercy”, these all fall short of conveying the actual meaning of this word. Its meaning is better “summed up as ‘steadfast love on the basis of a covenant’. It is employed both of God’s attitude towards his people and of theirs to him.”[*]

Ḥesed is life.

Ḥesed is peace.

is the ultimate assurance.

When things are at their worst, God’s Ḥesed remains as a sign to His people that He has not abandoned them. Alternatively, the prospect of God withdrawing His Ḥesed is utterly devastating and leaves one in a state of hopelessness.

Whenever two humans had an agreement (covenant) and one of them went back on it or abandoned it, the other would no longer show Ḥesed to them. The guilty party would have completely broken off the covenant relationship through their disobedience. At best, they would no longer be friends; at worst, they would be enemies.

However, as David, who wrote this song (that’s what Psalms are, by the way!) knew from his own life experiences, if someone goes back on God’s covenant but then realizes it and confesses their guilt (rather than trying to hide it or shift the blame to others) in a spirit of repentance, God’s Ḥesed remains—not because the person deserves it; but because God is merciful beyond measure and is devoted to His people. David had known this all his life, as we see in one of his earlier songs:

"Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close." (Psa 27:10 NLT)

In Psalm 40, David joyously celebrates God’s love, goodness and faithfulness. He then vividly depicts in the verses above what he has described thus far in the song: His guilt, his forsakenness and his fear leading to his crying out to God for forgiveness and for God to treat him with unmerited, undeserved covenant love and faithfulness. He knows God will do this, not because he deserves it, but because God promised that He would be faithful to those who come to Him in true repentance and trust.

Usually WE are the ones who are unwilling to forgive. Despite God’s continual promises of forgiveness through simple repentance, faith and trust, we constantly feel the need to do something for Him—to offer some type of sacrifice in order to earn back His Ḥesed. But what we fail to realize (or don’t allow ourselves to believe) is that there is no sacrifice we can make when we turn away from God and break covenant with Him. As David realizes in the song, we are surrounded by evils and blinded by our innumerable iniquities.
In other words, Sin, by its very nature, is an enemy that pursues us and, when we give in and allow it to manifest itself in our lives, captures us as its prisoner.


God, in His Ḥesed, has already taken that into account and provided in His own flesh (literally, through Jesus!) the means by which Sin’s grasp can be broken and its claims rendered powerless. The ultimate enemy has been beaten. Thus, those who come to God in humble confession and turn away from (the literal meaning of “repent”) Sin are lovingly welcomed into His grace, mercy and kindness…His Ḥesed.

This leads to the final lines of the song, in which David ends on a note of both tension and anticipation. He has not experienced God's full deliverance by the end of the song, but he knows it’s coming and maintains hope—all the while reassurring his enemies that when all is said and done, God WILL deliver him and put everything right.

“I am needy and poor;

Yet the Lord will give thought to me;

You are my deliverer and my rescuer.

My God, do not delay!”

(Psa 40:18)

And as he makes clear, this is not based on David's amount of faith or his own prestige. Rather, it is based on the greatness of the God, with whom he has entered into covenant, and God’s desire for a relationship that goes to the very core—“the heart” in Hebrew—of the believer.

This is indeed “good news” (the meaning of the term “gospel”)…right here in the “Old Testament!”

How will you respond to God’s offer of Ḥesed?


[*] cf. Koehler & Baumgartner, A Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), p.336

March 12, 2009

Book about nutty Evangelicals (sorta...)

When I saw the cover of Dan Radosh's book "Rapture Ready: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture" I immediately was hooked! As an evanglical Bible teacher and pastor even I think Christian pop culture is quite bizarre and at times all out foolish.

But I'd never come across a look at Christian pop culture from one outside the evanglical fold which didn't belittle, dismiss or outright decry the Ned Flanders's of the world in doing so. That is, until I came across Radosh's book.

Radosh is a self-avowed Humanist Jew from New York...not exactly the demographic most Christian culture trinket marketers are aiming at. But that's the beauty of his book. It gives us a view of what most of us who have been in churches or around Christian culture so long a fresh look at many things we might otherwise pay little attention to. And while the author's views on certain social-moral issues are unapologetically opposed to those of most evangelicals, he is able to put that aside and present their views and outlook in a way that is fair, and even kind, without being condescending or elitist. For that alone the book is worth reading.

But in addition to being insightful and fair-minded, the book is also extremely entertaining. Radosh is able to balance wit, sarcasm, and humor in a way that works well without being smug or self-righteous (i.e. the complete opposite of, say, Bill Maher or Penn and Teller when they discuss religion). That doesn't mean he's not sometimes quite biting in his criticism of certain evangelical mindsets or ideas. He just doesn't paint all of us with a single brush. And for that, I applaud him as having accomplished what few in secular media have been able to do.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

On Christian marketing:
"The largest subset of Christian gifts is apparel. Christian T-shirts are the uniformin which evangelicals under thirty suit up for battle, and th ecompaines that make them are constantly scrambling to come up with slogans and designs that appeal to today's youth, generally to embarrassing effect: 'God is my DJ'; 'Jesus has skills'; 'I'm like totally saved.' The marginally more ambitious shirts attempt to impart a lesson: 'Life would be so easy if everyone read the manual'; 'Friends don't let friends go to hell'; 'Modest is hottest.' The tangled rationale of that last one--we can persuade girls to dress in a way that does not attract sexual attention by telling them that doing so will attract sexual attention, especially if they wear this form-fitting shirt--begins to hint at the tension in bending Christian messages to pop-culture forms." p.12

On the Left Behind books:
"If nothing else, you might think the sudden disappearance of every child on earth would have some implications for society, or at least for their parents, but LaHaye and Jenkins can't concern themselves with this, because John Nelson Darby said that once the tribulation begins, certain events must happen on a fixed timetable, and d@mn it, they're going to follow that schedule. 'The authors behave as they imagine God behaves,' [Fred] Clark writes. 'They have a plot that must move forwad, and they will advance that plot even if it means causing, then callously disregarding, the suffering of billions of people. Plot trumps--and tramples on, and violates--character. Here, once more, Bad Writing and Bad Theology intersect.'" pp.79-80

On the religious right and end-times scare movies/books:
"...but apparently there is no end to the demand for near-future stories about persecuted Christians. Somehow the more powerful the religious right grows, the more desperately Christians cling to the fantasy that they are only one act of Congress away from being herded into concentration camps." p.93

On mass altar calls:
"[The evangelist said,] 'Turn to the person next to you and say, I'll go forward with you if you're ready to go,' he said. As a psychological tactic it was shrewd, and seemed to work on a few people, but if the point of the altar call is for people to publically announce that they've given their life over to Christ, what kind of followers is such quasi coercion going to get him?" p.143

And my personal favorite, found in a footnote on pp.110 explaining what a Christian's "walk" means:
"In The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right, Robert Lanham's glossary of Christianese defines 'How's your walk?' as 'Christian shorthand for 'How's your walk with God?' It's like asking 'How's it hanging?' you know, without all that scrotum.'"

I literally laughed out loud when I read that and immediately called my Dad (who's also a Pastor) and read it to him. And for those of you who may be offended at the use of the word 'scrotum' in a discussion of Christianity, I have some Bible passages that you may need to check out... ;)

I must also say that the hypothetical "interview" with Stephen Baldwin on pp.143-151 is not to be missed either. It's hilarious, even if you're a Stephen Baldwin fan. I hope Stephen took it in stride. If someone composed a satirical interview of me based on things I had written in an autobiography, I might be upset at first...but then I'd just have to tip my cap to them and give them credit for a job well done.

The final thing to note about "Rapture Ready" is that it is partnered with a blog by Radosh which acts as an extension or continuation of the book.

This book will not appeal to everyone, I'm afraid. When it comes to self-criticism and being called out on silliness or inconsistency, us evangelical Christians are usually the last in the lunch line. So I'll break it down according to the readership of Christian magazines in an effort to help you decide on whether or not to read it. If you read...

"CCM" or "Charisma" - be ready...there's a good chance one of your favorite Christianelebrities is lampooned or critiqued.

"Focus on the Family" or "Answers in Genesis" publications - make sure to have something between your teeth so you don't accidentally bite your tongue off when you go into the seizures of rage that are likely to accompany your reading of it.

"Christianity Today" - you will probably find yourself in agreement with most of Radosh's critiques, except for his social-moral stances on certain issues. The most interesting part of the book for you will likely be the discussions with Jay Bakker and their theological implications.

"Relevant", "HM" or "Good News" - You'll likely petition Scribner publishers to print ringer-t's and trucker hats with "Rapture Ready Radosh is my homeboy" on them.


March 11, 2009

Die heretic! :)

My good friend Rick sent me this today. I, in turn, am passing it on to all of you in the Dojo:

A joke written by Emo Phillips:

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump.
I said, "Don't do it!"
He said, "Nobody loves me."
I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"
He said, "Yes."I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?"
He said, "A Christian.
"I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?"
He said, "Protestant."
I said, "Me, too! What franchise?"
He said, "Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region."
I said, "Me, too!" Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912."
I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.

It's funny, yet hits close to home for some Christians, I'm afraid!


March 10, 2009

The Bible and G.I. Joe??

I came across this post on "Stuff Christians Like" (an excellent satirical blog that is quite astute in its observations!) and as a child of the 80s whose dream was to own every G.I. Joe action figure, vehicle and playset ever created, it brought a nostalgic tear to my eye. :)

As I've been having many conversations lately about Biblical translations and text-critical issues that affect various versions and their approaches to handling the text, I felt divinely guided to leave my own contribution to the Bible/G.I. Joe issue. Here's what I wrote:

"As a teacher of Biblical interpretation, translation and hermeneutics who also happens to have been a die-hard G.I. Joe fan, I wanted to offer my meager contributions...

The KJV would be less like Storm Shadow and more like Spirit, I would argue. Noble and dedicated to preserving the traditions of the past, even opting to use less effective weapons/manuscripts for the sake of preserving its heritage when there are far more accurate ones it could be using.

Plus he had an eagle as a pet. I don't know how that relates to the KJV, but who cares? It's a freakin' eagle!

The NRSV is Scarlett. Most other Joe's would scoff at the idea that a woman could overcome the innate assumed gender roles required to lead the troops into battle, but Scarlett proved them wrong and was gorgeous while doing so. Likewise, the NRSV is often scorned for attempting to show that gender-inclusive language can be effective in communicating the Word of God. Yet like Scarlett it does just that and is aesthetically pleasing as well.

The HCSB would be the Lady Jaye of translations. Gritty when necessary, but still maintaining that air of comfortable and down-to-earth. While the other gals might be intimidated by Scarlet's sophistication and sex-appeal, they are more able to relate to Lady Jaye and her down-home laid back charm. After all, there's a reason the HCSB's official spokesperson is Beth Moore!

The Living Bible would be the Bazooka of the bunch. It gets the job done...regardless of it less-than-stellar intellectual approach. However, don't expect much accuracy or precision!

The NET Bible would probably be Beachhead. He didn't care how much you had to work or sweat or groan--he was gonna equip and train you to be the best soldier you could be, even if it meant taunting you to anger in order to motivate you. The NET Bible's 600,000+ notes are intimidating and their use of technical terminology and original languages are tough to wade through...but if you can get through them and endure the constant humiliation of realizing just how little you actually know about the ancient context, setting and grammatical nuances, you'll come out the other side tougher and better equipped than you ever imagined you could be.

And I would also have to differ regarding the Amplified Bible. I believe it is the Serpentor of translations. Just as Cobra Commander picked and chose various parts of various great warriors and leaders in history with no regard for their historical settings or background, so too the Amplified Bible picks any and all relevant lexical glosses of key words and throws them all together into the text with little regard for their context. The result could be a mighty ruler with all the strengths of past geniuses...or an out of control monster that even Cobra is against! :)

Blessings from The Discipleship Dojo ("

When it comes to choosing and using the right translation of the Bible, the closing words of every episode of G.I. Joe are quite applicable indeed:



March 2, 2009

Great thoughts from a brother in Christ!

I belong to a small group of guys that meets weekly for study and prayer. We do prayer requests via email sometimes and today one of the guys in the group, Bryce, sent this to all of us. I asked him if I could share it with the Dojo and he said I could:

Knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing.

I have been so humbled this week by the Holy Spirit. It is so incredible to see how God is moving within people. How He brings things together in such a bigger picture that we could have never imagined. He has been moving even within our group of friends. Twice I have noticed friends asking themselves tough questions concerning their relationship with God. I could see in their faces they were yearning for something more. Desiring answers and a better understanding of what God was trying to say. It broke my heart. When I saw this I immediately was convicted and felt a burden. Every day each of us interacts with guys and girls who on the outside are happy and normal but on the inside they are teeter-tottering on righteousness or destruction.

There was this couple who sold their house to buy an old elegant house in the city. It was their plan to renovate and live in this house that was built in the 1800s. So they started with new plumbing, new addition, and new HVAC system but when the contractor came in, the first thing he did was pull out leveling jacks. He started to level the house and make it square and plumb. Once he had done that he started to notice that doors wouldn't close, windows wouldn't shut, and plumbing sat sideways. What had happened was that slowly over time the house settled. Whoever was living in that house before all those years didn't notice anything because it's not like it settled or changed all at once. Every day a little bit here or a little bit there. However, when they made it level, all of a sudden everything was out of sync. The contractors came in and had to use special tools to level it. You couldn't square up the walls by trusting your eyes or level the floors by your feet. You have to use a tool to compare them to. God has given us a way to level and square our lives. It is the cross and it is His Holy Word.

Our talks in CharlotteONE have been about Love and Loving others. How much do you love your friends? No seriously think about it. How much do you love your friends? Do you love them enough to buy their lunch if they are hungry? Do you love them enough to cheer them up when they are sad? What about saving their relationship with God? Do you want to see them for 15 mins on this Earth, experience a funny story together, and then let them fall by the way side? That is what we do every day. Satan didn't just fall from Heaven and become an annoyance to God. Satan deliberately turned his back on Him. Satan deliberately is waging war with our Creator and with us. He is trying to take the thing most precious to God, our love, and make it worthless. We know the price of a loaf of bread in a grocery store but we never think about the value that bread has to someone who is truly hungry. We know the price of our souls, the cross, but we never realize how valuable we are to Jesus.

Every day satan manipulates us in ways we don't recognize. He lies to us making areas in our lives "settle" without us knowing. Little by little over many years we become non-square and unlevel. A good example would be our country over the past 200 years. We don't realize how we've changed at first but years later when we look back we see how far we've strayed from Him. Just as Casting Crowns’ song says, "slow fade." Piece by piece we give our souls away. We accept the sex that perverts our minds and the alcohol that clouds our conscience. We may not lie, cheat, or steal, but we will sure miss time with God on Sunday morning because we had too much to drink on Saturday night. We are all hurting and we are all looking for answers to fill the void within our hearts. Use the tools God gave you to level and square your life and then help square the lives of your friends who you should Love like yourself. Once you do, your sight will no longer be foggy, and your eyes will open to the areas that have "settled". If we all come together and help each other become square and level… then we can be a house that the Holy Spirit can live in. You are responsible for your own soul, but as a Christian, you are responsible for the souls of others.

That is my prayer request this week. That our friends who are questioning right or wrong and those who may not know Him find answers. We can make a big difference in someone’s relationship with God by doing little things to encourage. Pray with me.

Thanks guys for your support.


Well said, Bryce. Well said.

My friend Kevin also shared this on his blog, which I also suggest everyone check out and frequent as they are able.


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