January 31, 2010

Christians arrested for taking orphans from Haiti

Christians arrested for taking orphans from Haiti

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You really CAN teach an old Dawg new tricks!!

I'd like to give a big shout-out to my fellow GA Bulldog Herschel Walker for not only stepping into the MMA cage for the first time tonight...but for doing it at the age of 47 (when most other pro athletes are playing golf or marketing 'as seen on TV' products!).

Not only did Herschel compete, though. He won in dominant fashion! The associated press reports:

Former NFL star Herschel Walker stopped Hungarian fighter Greg Nagy in the third round Saturday night to win his mixed-martial arts debut. Walker drove Nagy into the fence early in the third. After a flurry of punches, referee Troy Waugh called the fight.

"The experience was exciting," Walker said. "This is the hardest thing I've ever done."

Still trim and fit at 47, Walker used his strength advantage to wear down the 26-year-old Nagy (1-2). He appeared to be close to the win near the end of the second five-minute round, but Nagy managed to extend the bout.

Walker was the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner while at Georgia and played professionally for Dallas, Philadelphia, Minnesota, the New York Giants and the USFL's New Jersey Generals.

In his football days, Walker dropped jaws with a workout regimen that included upwards of 3,000 situps and pushups everyday. He also holds a fifth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Walker, a 1992 U.S. Olympian in the two-man bobsled, turned his attention to MMA about 2½ months ago when he moved to San Jose, Calif., to train at renowned American Kickboxing Academy.

Herschel said from the beginning that any proceeds from the fight would go to charity...which means that some fortunate charity will be receiving a pretty big check!

Congrats from the Discipleship Dojo, Herschel!

You did the Dawgs, the state of Georgia, and dedicated martial artists everywhere proud tonight.

January 23, 2010

What I'm reading

I'm always reading 4 or 5 books at any given time, so I thought it'd be a good idea to share some of them with the Dojo readers.

Right now I'm reading "New Testament Theology" by the late Oxford scholar G.B. Caird. The book carries a hefty price tag, but you can access much of it for free HERE. Caird was one of the greatest NT scholars who ever lived and has influenced many of the top scholars in the field today. His commentary on Revelation (now out of print) is one of the best I've ever read. And reading "New Testament Theology" is like sitting in a seminary classroom once again. The way Caird wove together the overall teaching of the NT on various topics is nothing short of majestic. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

The will of God is, as we have seen, an ambiguous concept. It is interesting therefore to find the distinction between God's antecedent and His consequent will draqwn, though without technical terms, in the Marcan debate about divorce (10:1-9). Moses permitted divorce, and Jesus never for a moment suggests that he was wrong to do so; the Law of Moses is God's Law. But the commandment in questions (Deut. 24:1-4) was given in consequence of human hardness of heart to protect the rights of women and the institutions of marriage and family. Jesus penetrates behind the positive Law to the intention of God the Creator that man and woman should live together in lifelong partnership. He is not initiating a new and harsher Law, but is insisting that the Torah will be wrongly interpreted unless it is constantly referred back to the intention of God who gave it. [p.47]

Jesus is first left with the Twelve, doubtful even of their allegiance, and is then deserted by them so that in the end he stands alone; and the whole world, including the disciples, stands under the judgment of having rejected the light or of having received it with only a half-hearted faith. it is at this point that Jesus' hour arrives, when he must realize the judgment of God, not by executing it on others, but by bearing it himself. If their condition is such that they cannot come to the light and so join him where he abides in the bosom of the Father, he can join them where they are, under the judgment of God and in the death which is the wages of sin...By accepting a death in which he could be identified with sinful men and women, Jesus drew all into the unity of his own person, so that the judgment by light, under which the world stood utterly condemned, became instead the means of the world's salvation; and Satan, who appeared to have won a total victory, entitling him to claim possession of all unbelieving humanity, suffered instead a total defeat. [pp.79-80]

He [Satan] tempts people to do wrong, not because it is wrong, but because it appears to be right. [p.110]

To be pardoned by God is to live no longer by one's merits buy by His grace. Those who insist on dealing with others according to their deserts betray their own inability to comprehend the meaning of grace and therefore their incapacity to receive pardon. The forgiving spirit is a condition not of God's offer of pardon but of our receiving it. To refuse to forgive is to refuse to be forgiven. The elder brother must share the feast with the prodigal, not have one to himself. [p.116]

...in all the annals of human vice, no power is as destructive or demonic as perverted sincerity. [p.147]

Retaliation wins a victory for wrongdoing, by recruiting the victim into the army of hatred and violence. Wrong propagates itself by chain-reaction, and can be stopped in its career only by someone who absorbs it and lets it go no further. [p.156]

In the death of Christ the love of God has been manifested, but only in order to be shared. [p.161]

The ongoing process of salvation is the progressive appropriation in the experience of believers, individual and corporate, of all that had been accomplished once for all in the representative and inclusive person of Christ. [p.179]

I'm only halfway through the book, but these are just a few gems that have been mined from this work which is, in my opinion, the best book on NT theology as a whole that I've ever read. I commend it to everyone who wants to gain a clearer and more profound grasp of the message in the 27 books that we call the New Testament!

January 11, 2010

OT resource review: ZIBBCOT vol.2

A few months ago I had the pleasure of reviewing vol. 1 of Zondervan's Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. The good folks at Zondervan sent me vol. 2 and asked that I review it as well.

The overall strengths (and few weaknesses) of the series are the same from my last review, so rather than cover them again, I'll let the interested reader go there for an overview.

Vol.2 covers the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth and 1&2 Samuel. And once again, the reader finds a wealth of visual information on the background of these books covering Israel's transitional period from wandering ex-slaves to a mighty people united under the Davidic monarchy.

There is so much that could be said about this volume to commend it, so I'll focus on a specific in order to give an idea of what to expect overall.

I was very pleased to see how ZIBBCOT treats the famous David and Goliath episode. I've written a number of articles on the account of David and Goliath and how it often gets told in a distorted manner due to it's popularity as a children's story and lack of close attention to the text. Things such as Goliath's height, armor and method of death are often overlooked or embellished for the sake of retelling. ZIBBCOT does a fantastic job of putting the reader back into the tail-end of the 2nd millennium BC with numerous images of artifacts from the period. From a section of scale armor, such as Goliath would've likely worn (p.347) to a relief depicting mealtime in an army camp (p.349), to an Egyptian depiction of a captured Philistine warrior (p.352), ZIBBCOT delivers exactly what it promises--a commentary on the world of the text with multiple illustrations to aid the reader in reconstructing the story.

However, especially refreshing was the note on 1Sam. 17:49. I other than occasional reference in a footnote here and there, I've never seen the subject of where the stone struck Goliath discussed in any detail other than the traditional view that it struck him on the forehead. But the word "forehead" in the Hebrew text is a variant of the word "greave/shin guard" that appears earlier in the chapter when describing Goliath's armor. Thus it's possible (if not likely) that the stone struck the "forehead" that Goliath was wearing on his leg (i.e. his shin armor), knocking him facedown on the ground so that David could quickly grab his sword and decapitate him with it. This alternative view is rarely found in popular commentaries on this passage, yet in ZIBBCOT we find the following:

Struck the Philistine on the forehead (17:49). Questions have been raised concerning whether a stone from David's sling could have struck Goliath's forehead, given the kinds of helmets that Philistines are depicted as wearing (see illustration). But the biblical text does not suggest that Goliath's armor was typical Philistine hardware but exceptional (see sidebar on "Goliath's Armor" at 17:5-7). That said, it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word rendered "greave" in verse 6 (mitscha), which occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible, is very close, if not identical, to the Hebrew word for "forehead" (metsach). Noting this curiosity, A. Deem has suggested that David's stone finds its mark not in Goliath's forehead but at the "greave" in the gap required for walking. It is difficult to decide between these two interpretations; in either case Goliath is toppled and quickly dispatched by David, using Goliath's own sword (v.51)

Thus, a small but significant detail which can very much change one's understanding of this traditional story--and one which is usually hidden away in dusty academic journals or little-used critical commentaries--is presented to the reader and explained in an easy-to-understand manner. And rather than making the argument one way or the other, ZIBBCOT simply notes the possibility and allows the reader to draw their own conclusion. This is a commendable quality in a commentary and is the norm for this series.

This is but one example among many which gives a good understanding as to the purpose, nature and approach ZIBBCOT takes. In the very helpful introductory essay "Methodology: An Introductory Essay," General Editor, John Walton, lays out the value of such background study in regard to intepreting Scripture:
Susscessful interpreters must try to understand the cultural backgroud of the ancient Near East just as successful missionaries must learn the culture, language, and worldview of the people they are trying to reach. This is the rationale for us to study the Bible in light of the ancient Near East. What we contend, then, is that comparative studies has three goals in mind:
  1. We study the history of the ancient Near East as a means of recovering knowledge of the events that shaped the lives of people in the ancient world.
  2. We study archaeology as a means of recovering the lifestyle reflected in the material culture of the ancient world.
  3. We study the literature of the ancient Near East as a means of penetrating the heart and soul of the people who inhabited the ancient world that Israel shared.
These goals are a the heart of comparative studies and will help us understand the OT better.
Since comparative studies is pretty foreign territory to the average Bible reader, ZIBBCOT is a crucial resource for every pastor, teacher, Bible study leader and anyone else who studies the Bible seriously to have within arms' reach. If you're looking for more information that will open up the world of ancient pre-monarchic Israel in a new and exciting way, ZIBBCOT vol.2 is tailor-made for such study. I recommend it wholeheartedly and look forward to working my way through future volumes.

January 8, 2010

The Dojo gets a new address

Just wanted to let everyone know that the Discipleship Dojo has a new web address. It's now


Shorter, easier to remember and easier to tell others about! So help get the word out and let's keep the training going nonstop in the Dojo!


Ehrman says not to trust the accuracy of Biblical text

Ehrman says not to trust the accuracy of Biblical text

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January 3, 2010

The Samurai of Truth

This is a guest post written by my friend Olatunde Howard, author of "The Mind of Christ." Olatunde and I became friends when I was in college and have been through some of the most amazing spiritual adventures I've ever had together.

The quotes are from the ancient Samurai classic Hagakure, the spiritual applications are Olatunde's. This is a perfect guest post for the Discipleship Dojo, from a master swordsman!


The Way of the Samurai of Truth:
My Renewed Commitment for 2010

By Olatunde Howard

"The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. And every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai."

  1. I know that my old self, the deceived self, was crucified with Christ, and that my body of deception was rendered powerless, that I might no longer be a slave of Deception.
  2. I consider myself dead to Deception and the law of truth that exposed it and aroused it, and alive to Truth in union with Christ Jesus.

"If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one's body and soul to his master."

  1. I present my self to the Spirit who is Truth as His slave to obey Him, as one brought from death to life, and I present my tongue to Him as an instrument and weapon of truth. In presenting my tongue, I present my body and heart, for my tongue is the rudder of my body, and from the overflow of the truth in my heart my mouth will speak truth alone.

"It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own."

  1. I live in union with the Spirit of Truth who is truth, who guides me into all truth (God’s word is truth), and I do not fulfill the deceptions of the flesh.


The Daily Prayer of the Samurai of Truth

My Father in heaven,

You who are Light and in You there is no darkness,


No darkness.

At all.

In the name of Jesus, the way and the truth and the life,

And by the Spirit of truth who is truth,

According to your word which is truth,

And as a member of your household, the pillar and foundation of truth,

I approach you according to the gospel of truth,

Sanctified by the truth.

Having accepted Jesus as my Savior from deception, the essence of all sin,

I renounce all deception and every deception.

I make this confession before all men and women.

I totally surrender to your Spirit of Truth who is truth,

I have one desire,

One cause for which I was born again

And have come again into the world:

To bear witness to the truth,

Speaking what I know and testifying what I have seen and heard.

Therefore, my Father in heaven,

Please fill me with your Spirit of Truth

That I may be empowered to bear witness to the truth.

Thank you for hearing and granting my petition, which is in accordance with your will.

I submit to the Spirit of Truth, to God who is light,

And resist the father of lies, the prince of darkness.

The Daily Meditation of the Samurai of Truth

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable…meditate on these things.

In seeking truth one honors the Creator’s holiness; the Numinous; the Supreme Uniqueness. Truth by definition is exclusive. This is the Creator’s holiness. This is the creation's holiness. God is who He is, and He is no other, thus no other should receive His honor. This is truth. This is honor. This is holiness. This is Numinous.


If you enjoyed this you HAVE to check out Olatunde's book "The Mind of Christ" (which happens to be sporting a sweet cover design by yours truly!). In it, he looks at various aspects of the Christian spiritual life and what it means to truly "walk in the Spirit." I was fortunate enough to be asked to look over the manuscript before it was published and I can honestly say that Olatunde is one of the most gifted people I've ever known when it comes to explaining and illustrating abstract spiritual concepts in fresh and profound ways.

Be sure to check out his blog, Honor Comes Again, for more of his work!

For more on Olatunde or to contact him, look him up on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/olatunde.howard

January 2, 2010

They're here!! My 'Bible for the Rest of Us' course now available!

My DVD course "Bible for the Rest of Us" is now available and ready to ship!

The course consists of 3 DVDs containing sixteen 20-35 min. sessions covering topics such as:

* Why so many Bible translations?

* What is Inspiration?
* Can we trust the Biblical manuscripts?
* An overview of the Old Testament
* How do we interpret hard passages in the Bible?
* Are the Bibles we read today accurate?
* New Testament overview
* The importance of Context and historical background
* Famous misinterpreted or mistranslated passages in the Bible
* How to choose a good translation and study Bible

...and much much more!

The 4th disc contains PDF files of the leader's guide as well as the 50+ page participant's workbook. That means that individuals doing this study in a small group or Sunday school class don't have to pony up an additional $10-$20 for a workbook!

The cost of the complete course is $100, which includes the rights to print as many workbooks as needed. (Small group studies of this size and scope usually cost two or three times this much!)

Here is the front and back cover for the DVD case along with the text:


"Does studying the Bible sometimes make you feel like a dummy? You’re not alone! The Bible is a confusing book. But it’s not just for scholars and clergy-it’s for the rest of us too. This 6-session course takes a closer look at how to read, study, interpret and understand God’s Word more accurately and responsibly.

Each week participants can follow along in their workbooks (which are included in PDF format) as topics such as translation, inspiration, text-criticism, and interpretation are explored in detail. On-screen notes, charts and graphics help bring the information to life and provide an in-class feel ideal for small groups or Sunday School classes. The course is divided into five parts, with each session between 20-40 mins. in length:

Part 1 - Bible Basics (5 sessions)
Part 2 - The Hebrew Bible (2 sessions)
Part 3 - Interpreting the OT (3 sessions)
Part 4 - The New Testament (2 sessions)
Part 5 - Misunderstood Passages (4 sessions)

Whether you’ve studied the Bible for decades or just received your first copy, you’ll definitely be exposed to a fresh encounter with God’s Word each week!

"The perception in America is that Christians are products of a blind allegiance to the Bible. Unfortunately, this view is fairly accurate. Bible for the Rest of Us will change that. This course transforms a person's understanding of the bible and will empower them to grow into more informed and educated believers." --Chris Macedo - Pastor of Worship, Good Shepherd UMC

“James-Michael's "Bible for the Rest of Us" was an excellent experience. It was better than some of my seminary classes. James-Michael combines a heart for God and intimate knowledge of his word with a high capacity to teach with humor, wit and simplicity. Its a real treat for anyone interested in learning more about the Bible on its own terms.” --Rich Tuttle - United Methodist Pastor

“Standing on a firm theological foundation, James-Michael is able to clearly communicate the timeless truths of the Christian faith in a way any listener can understand and appreciate.”
--David Hickman - Executive Director, CharlotteONE

James-Michael Smith (M.Div, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is a teacher/speaker who writes as the national Methodist Examiner [www.examiner.com] and The Olio [theolio.org]. He served for five years as pastor of discipleship at Good Shepherd UMC in Charlotte, NC where he oversaw the church’s PASSAGE school of theology, Discipleship, Adult Education, FUSION Young Adult Ministry, Men’s Ministry and Small Groups. He speaks on occasion at CharlotteONE: (www.charlotteone.org), a citywide worship gathering of young adults in the metro Charlotte area. He loves teaching about and discussing obscure biblical passages, philosophy of religion, the Hebrew Bible, and theological or spiritual truths (as well as anything pertaining to the Simpsons, MMA, or Ron Burgundy)."

If you'd like to order this course, just click on the paypal link. Or you'd prefer to pay by check you can email me at jamesmichael7@yahoo.com for details on how to do so. If you are someone who has taken the course live (either at Good Shepherd or Americus First UMC) you automatically qualify for the almuni 50% discount! (If you have not, then please do not select that option...I'm using the honor system on this one, folks!)

Blessings in this new year,

Also, here are some sample clips from the sessions. Please share these with your Pastor, Deacon, Elder, Small Group leader or anyone else who may be interested in purchasing the course for their church! Depending on the success of this course, there may be more to follow! :)


Introduction to the course:

Scripture and Science:

What does it mean to be 'Lukewarm'?:

Bible for the Rest of Us DVD course

JM's Audio Teaching Archive

Check out sermon.net/jmsmith for some of my messages and teaching sessions:

Bruce Lee quote of the day...