Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Life in Words

Most of the time I just post pictures with comments, because 1) we take a lot of pictures that are too cute not to share and 2) it's faster! But I'm a writer at heart, and I've always processed things better through writing them out. And, there are moments that can't be captured by a camera...

Take Friday for example. A typical day...

The morning was like most: somewhat rushed as I tried to fit everything in with a baby who's up and rolling by 6 AM, make and eat breakfast (a feat in itself sometimes!), skype parents, take Hadassah outside to get energy out and fill water jugs, read her stories, put her down for a nap, and get some quick cleaning done before my Chinese tutor showed up at 8:45 AM. Though it may seem like the day was just starting then, I'd been up for 4 hours!

I don't feel I have enough time to study. Chores take time, a baby fills lots of time, cooking 3 meals a day takes time, and in those minutes I have to myself, lately I've been using them to do some digital scrapbooking. I've learned that doing something creative is REALLY good for me. While I often don't miss all of the things that filled my time as a single dancer and teacher and director, after living and breathing creative things for years, I can't do completely without design. ;) Cooking and cleaning are an art in themselves, but I find delight in arranging pictures. And though I've always preferred scrapbooking by hand, for a mom, digital scrapbooks seem the way to go (no mess, and you can do a little when you just have five minutes!). Plus, with all the Groupons and sales, it can cost less to get a book than it would be to just print the pictures. So... since 2014 is in the last quarter, I've decided it's more than time to finish scrapbooking 2013's photos. And reliving the memories of our first year of marriage is so much fun!

Anyways. So when my Chinese lessons roll around, on Wednesday and Friday mornings, I haven't always studied much. But, my teacher is really good. She explains things well and because I studied more words at the beginning, as we're now learning things topically (like how to order food or take a taxi) I already know a lot of the vocabulary. It's exciting learning more sentences, and that particular Friday morning, as I arranged scrambled words into the right sentence structure, she said, "Anna, you are a genius!" While I feel FAR from a genius, it is encouraging that language learning is going well (she says we're going too quickly through the lessons!) and that things are making more sense. I haven't yet learned to decipher/read any of the Chinese characters (we're just learning the phonetic way to write it right now) but I'm beginning to understand more. My goal is to write out all the sentences I can make from the words and topics I've learned and study them to be able to use them more when we're out. Hopefully with the national holiday meaning my lessons are canceled this week, I'll take the time!

Once my lesson was over, I got online for a few minutes of Facebook so that my brain could de-frag. Being a student of Chinese leaves me excited, but also makes me feel a little overwhelmed after an hour of it! Soon Hadassah woke, and it was on to making lunch and cleaning broken up by playing with her, taking her away from items she wasn't to touch, and preventing a few falls. ;)

After lunch, encouraged by the fact that my teacher said my language was going well, I typed "can you wash this blanket?" into Google translate, practice the Chinese they gave me over and over (encouraged that I recognized a word and the sentence structure!) and headed out with a comforter in a bag and a baby on my hip. We'd bought the blanket used and then found it was too big to fit in our tiny washing machine. So, a good excuse to check out the shop that looked like they did laundry located right outside of our complex!

Walking into the store, I said the sentence I'd practiced the whole way there, but then didn't understand the guy's response. Oh well. He looked at it, nodded his head, and asked me a few things I didn't understand, but then started writing a receipt, which showed he could wash it. I asked how much it would cost, and was relieved to hear it was just 40 quai - the equivalent of under $7 USD! I was also very thankful that the Chinese use the same number system and writing as we do, as the receipt showed when I was to come back to pick it up. He asked me something else that I didn't understand, but finally guessed he was asking if I'd pay now or when I picked it up, and got my money out. The whole time he kept smiling at Hadassah, which made it less awkward. She really opens a lot of doors for us.

We live among a kind people. The vegetable stand lady always points to blemishes on vegetables if I don't see them and offers another, better one. Same at the fruit stand. People get the door for me, and once I even had the guard at the gate put my water bottles in her bike basket, drive it back to our building, and even insisted on carrying them up the stairs for me! I tried to tell her I carry them every day and it's no problem, but she's being kind... Maybe it's just because I have a baby or look helpless, but I think it's that the Chinese are just really kind. We feel accepted and loved here.

Since the musical boat ride was almost right outside the laundry shop, I let Hadassah enjoy it again. Two people came up, one man trying to ask me things. I had to say "I don't understand" yet again, and offered the explanation "Měiguó" (American). It gets kind of tiring feeling a little dumb and unable to speak with most of the world around me. But, it's learning humility, patience, and gaining an empathy that will last for others in my situation.

Hadassah scanned the keys to get us back into the complex, and the guard in her little booth gestured to a stool next to her and said "Zuò" (sit). I smiled and took a seat, and she took Hadassah. A week or two earlier she'd had me take a picture of her with Hadassah, looking so pleased when she saw it on her phone. She took a picture of Hadassah in her cute outfit (what people do with these photos I don't know, but Hadassah gets pictures taken by everyone... so I've just gotten used to it!) and let her sit on her parked e-bike and honk the horn. Hadassah, of course, loved it! After a few minutes of smiling, I got up to go, and we hadn't walked 10 steps before running into a college girl I'd seen a time or two before, who pointed to her cheek and said "kiss!" and Hadassah actually complied!

Walking a little further, we had some mommy and 'Dassah time in a little gazebo, where I reflected. Living among SO many people ALL the time has made both of us eager for a life more in the country one day, should God so bless. But it is a unique opportunity to live in a place that I can't walk for more than a few minutes without interacting with someone - a smile, a wave, a stop-and-try-to-talk... May these daily interactions be a blessing to someone. And it gives me more incentive to study!

Life continues. It's tiring. It's blessed. It's thrilling. It's hard. It's feeling more like home, but when I say "I'm looking forward to going home one day" I'm talking about America still. But we're praying that we use our time wisely here, that we impact some through these weeks and months that fly by, and that God continues to guide us as He faithfully has. His grace truly is sufficient for each new day.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hadassah is 11 Months!

At 11 months, Hadassah loves to feed herself. She's quite adept with her hands and is learning with a spoon, although that often makes a mess. ;)

Animal sounds are clicking in her head, which is the cutest thing ever! She LOVES dogs best of all, and will say "ff" (for "woof") whenever she sees one live or in pictures. "Teet teet" (bird), "grr" (bear), "blub blub" (fish) and a version of "flutter flutter" (butterfly) also come out on occasion. She babbles a lot, says our names and hers, and says "key" and "see" while pointing at what she wants. I think she's saying "again" when she wants to read a book again, but it's hard to tell if it's a word or just a sound. ;)

See also LOVES games! A "sharing" game was a fun way to teach her to sign "thank you" and she still enjoys ring-around-the-rosy with us, "this little piggy," me hiding toys for her to find, and the ever new and different peek-a-boo.

She loves doing it herself too:

She's quite expressive, and oh so active! She moves all the time, crawling, pulling up, still trying to push herself up to stand alone but can't quite yet. She can walk 5-8 steps between us, but still hasn't ventured out on her own yet. She prefers to sign "please" for mommy to help her walk. ;) 

As she gets more mobile, she's also showing her human nature - wanting to do what she wants when she wants it. So, we're striving to teach obedience and praying for wisdom in how to guide her with loving discipline.

All-in-all, we love life with our little one! The months fly by... It's crazy to think she'll soon be one!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Just a few more thoughts on Paul's clever transition

Have a couple minutes here on my lunch break.  So I thought I'd cover some more of my thoughts on Paul's transition from chapter 1 to chapter 2.

#1 The connection with Rom. 1:18

I never noticed this before, but the fact that people are giving approval to others (1:32) for their sin continues the theme of how people are attempting to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.  If you can get a horde of others to do the same thing as you, it can look pretty well like it's the right thing to do.  I think this theme climaxes (in this section anyways) at the end of 1:18-3:20 in 3:1-8 where Paul says "let God be true and every man a liar".  Men try to suppress the truth by approving of the lies in the lives of everyone.  But judgment is coming, and God will be justified in the end.

#2 Jewish thought

A lot of ink is spilled over getting to the heart of what the real salvivic theories existed in second temple Judaism.  What was the soteriology of the first century Jew?  I mean, this is one of the main things that got people to listen to E.P. Sanders in his "Paul and Palestinian Judaism".

[His idea was that Jews basically were covenental nomists: they thought they were automatically chosen to enter in to the kingdom and that they just had to perform basic religious rites to stay in the covenant. He (and his followers) developed his theory by examining many of the intertestamental and secondary first century (mainly Dead Sea Scrolls) sources.]

I think, if we can reverse engineer Paul's conception of their world from his comments in 2:1-3:8, I think we can determine that they acknowledged their own moral shortcomings (Paul assumes they know that they "practice the same things"), but were relying on their observance of the ritualism of the Mosaic law to shield them from the wrath of the coming judgment of God.

Consequently, this chapter provides us a chilling account of what goes on inside the mind of the religious person.  I look forward to going through it.  It should be highly profitable for understanding religion qua religion (not religion qua Christianity), how to watch out for it, and how to respond to it when we find it creeping into our own lives.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Shanghai Sunset

The sun shining in Shanghai is pretty rare. Every now and then we see it through smog, but on Saturday and Sunday it was bright enough to cast shadows as it came through the window. Hadassah was fascinated moving her hand and seeing the shadow, which made us realize how rare it was! ;)

With such nice, pretty clear days, we even saw the sunset last night! God displayed His glory in the sky...

 Pretty pastels

 A change on the camera settings made it look even more vibrant. :) Perfect for capturing a picture wit my love!

 We were walking to the subway station around 6 PM to get our e-bike, since we'd taken it there to go to church in the morning but come back in a taxi so Hadassah could get a nap earlier.

By the time we got to the station, the sky was so many shades of blue.

This is the beauty I want to remember from Shanghai.

Approving and judging

We're just very briefly going to look at the end of Romans 1 and the beginning of Romans 2.  This is the transition between 1:18-32 (how all of us, with special emphasis on the Gentiles, are condemned) and 2:1-3:8 (how the moral majority, with special emphasis on the Jew, are especially condemned).  He has just mentioned (in vv. 1:29-31) a long list of 21 sins that we all commit.  Now Paul starts out the transition by saying
Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die
Isn't it interesting that everyone, atheist or not, knows this?  Everyone knows that we deserve God's judgment on our sin.  Paul adds one more thing to our list of things we cannot not know.  It's a sad and scary thing when the threatened judgment of God no longer affects a person.

He continues:

they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Paul is saying that giving approval for these sins is in some ways even worse than doing the sins.  Piper says, "Which is worse? Suicide or murder?"  He likens our approval of things in society (like our society's rampant approval of homosexuality) to being spiritual and eternal Dr. Kevorkians.

Of course, at this point, some people in the audience are clearly not feeling condemned.  Even if they were guilty of the 21 sins Paul mentioned in his vice list of vv. 29-31, they definitely didn't approve of the sins and often spoke out against them in society.

It seems to me that the reason for Paul mentioning how the Gentiles publically approve of these sins was mainly for rhetorical purposes to draw in the self-righteous crowd so that Paul could turn the argument to them.  Watch how Paul continues:
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
Paul would have had a lot of experience preaching to self-righteous Jews during his missionary journeys.  And when you travel around giving the same sermon, you learn what works and what doesn't work.  You really notice what has an affect on the crowd.  I imagine that Paul had used this trick a few times: first talk about how the Gentiles are approving of these sins.  Then when the self-righteous religious person says "Not me! I don't approve of their sins", Paul uses this opportunity to start his condemnation of them.

And he, here at least, isn't condemning them for their hypocrisy (as is often stated), but rather he is showing that their own knowledge of the truth makes them inexcusable.  (Paul has, ever since verse 18-19, been strongly emphasizing our own knowledge to point out God's justice in judging us.  We actually just saw this again in v. 32 above.)

This little rhetorical trick reminds me of Paul Washer in his, now famous, "shocking sermon".  I've tried to start the youtube video 5 minutes in.

A Saturday around Home

Saturday mornings are always full. No sleeping in due to an early rising baby, skyping both sets of parents and often another family member since it's the only morning we're both available (since our mornings are evenings in the states!), trying to have devotions together while baby naps, and too soon it's lunch time and leftovers aren't always in the fridge!

So today Ryan took Hadassah outside while I tried to scour the house for something to eat, but soon the door intercom rang and it was Ryan - though I didn't figure that out until he'd confused me by first sounding like a Chinese man. ;) But he said "It's a really nice day - let's go out for lunch!"

It solved my quandary of what to make, and we wanted an excuse to try ordering at a restaurant that looked nice to take guests to. Plus the weather is PERFECT these days... warm but coolness in the air, and blue skies the past two days! A 3 minute walk to the complex gate, turn to the right, and we were there!

 The menu was completely in Chinese characters, with no pictures. So pleco and Ryan's knowledge of some characters came to the rescue, and he ordered winning dishes. This beef with ginger and celery was AMAZING, and so pretty with an orchid for detail.

Hadassah loved her first experience slurping down long noodles. :)

 I love this little one. :)

For 1 kuai (about 15 cents USD) you can get a smile like this accompanied by happy little shrieks and about 5 minutes of Chinese music that makes Hadassah dance. :)

We don't do it all too often because we want to make it special (and cents add up!) but it's such fun when we do. Rides like these are outside many little shops, and Hadassah always points at them and looks with her pleading eyes. ;)

We had talked to the mom of this baby as we were walking down the street, and when she came over we motioned that she could put her baby in too. Hadassah did try to push him away at first (yes, we'll be working on sharing!) but then seemed to enjoy the company.

We walked across the street to campus and let Hadassah practice her walking skills in the grass. On Thursday she started pulling up on things and by Friday night was taking a few steps alone. She's now up to 5-8 steps solo on her way from one of us to the other - so much fun!

It was a good day. After some minor seeming-like-catastrophes-in-the-moment during the week, we didn't have any "fires" to put out on Saturday. Time together, time with the Lord, time walking in His beautiful creation (low pollution days are amazing!)... we are blessed. And this is feeling like home slowly but surely. Praise Him.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

More from the Botanical Gardens

On Fridays, Ryan likes to get off a little early if he can (by working a few hours extra earlier in the week) and we set out on the e-bike for a park. It's a really good way to clear the mind and relax after the busyness of a week. There's nothing like being out in nature to calm the eyes, plus it's a great way to be together as a family!

Today Ryan has to work a full day since we don't have hours worked ahead, plus it's raining so a park isn't an option anyway. So looking at pictures from last week's excursion to the Botanical Gardens at JiaoTong University Minhang will have to do.

 Showing off what she found...This girl LOVES exploring outside, so we alternated walking with her in her stroller and letting her walk and explore with help.

 We watched busy butterflies for a while

These columns reminded us of a bed & breakfast we stayed at on our honeymoon :)


 She discovered she could walk alone by pushing her stroller backwards 

 Hadassah doesn't really like to smile at the camera these days. Shocker, right? But there's so much else to see and do... But Ryan had persistence and we got a smile out of her on the 10th or so picture!

 Such intricacy in a simple path!

There were many random rock formations. This one had a big nose.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The law of the Spirit of Life

A friend of mine asked What is the "law of the Spirit of Life"

Some autobiography
This is a more complicated question than I was anticipating.  I've been reading all about the first part of Romans; this is a good excuse to get to Romans 8.  Before tonight, my only recall of the passage was that I'd memorized Romans 8:1-2 a long time ago, have heard some lectures and sermons on Romans 5-8 in general (mostly in the contexts of the topic of sanctification.  And I'd read John Owen's book on Indwelling Sin.

So when I heard the question, I quickly consulted 3 books:
 (1) To start with, I read what Gordon Fee's book "God's Empowering Presence" had to say about it. In this book, Gordon walks through literally every Pauline passage that makes reference to the Spirit.  But he does so in its full context, so the book also acts as a stand-in commentary on the entire Pauline corpus.  It's a pretty magisterial book, so any time I'm in a passage where Paul mentions "Spirit", I consult it.

(2) Next, I read the relevant pages in Moo's commentary on Romans.  This is the meatiest book I own on Romans.  And as expected, it proved the most helpful.

(3) Lastly, I picked up John Owen's book on Indwelling Sin.  Like I said, I had read this several years prior and still had its definition in my mind.  But I wanted to make sure I wasn't just taking Owen's word for it.  The cool thing is that he and Moo (resource # 2 above) agreed.  So that was cool.

So I'll work backwards through those 3 resources:

John Owen's view
John Owen starts out his book saying that Romans 7:21-23 is the foundational text for understanding indwelling sin in the life of believers.  And so to make his point, he has to give a definition for "law".  The one he lays out is:

"An inward principle that moves and inclines constantly unto any actions is called a law.  The principle that is in the nature of everything, moving and carrying it toward its own end and rest, is called the law of nature.  In this respect, every inward principle that inclines and urges unto operations or actings suitable to itself is a law.  So the powerful and effectual working of the Spirit and grace of Christ in the hearts of believers is called "the law of the Spirit of life" (Rom 8:2). ... It is a powerful and effectual indwelling principle, inclining and pressing unto actions agreeable and suitable unto its own nature." [1]
But often, when you read something by a guy a few hundred years ago on a peripheral passage like this, you'll learn that modern Greek exegesis has something else to say about it.  So that's where Moo comes in.

Moo spends 5 very detailed, heavily footnoted pages explaining his view on verse 2.  So the rules for me re-explaining what he said are that I'm not allowed to open the book.  (Keeps my response short!)  As I remember, he said the following things:
(1) Some people take "law" to refer to the Mosaic law.  In this interpretation, the Spirit now helps us to obey the law and so it is an agent of life rather than an agent of death.  However, this interpretation is unlikely.  How much hope is there if our deliverer turns out to be our enslaver?  He had other linguistic arguments against this interpretation but I forget them.
(2) nomos, the Greek word for "law" can mean "principle" or "binding authority" (as Owen mentioned above), and so is a viable interpretation here.  And it parallels 7:23 nicely, which refers to the "law of sin".  We even expect for Paul to "finish the story" and explain how we are set free from the "law of sin".  There, in 7:23, it refers to a binding principle / power as well.  The Greek construction is the same and given the parallel, it is likely that the meaning is retained.

"But", some might object, "what is the point of Paul using this language here?  This just seems so ad hoc of him.  He never uses this language anywhere else..."  This is a good objection and a true observation.  The most likely reason for him doing this is that there is a play on words going on in the Greek.  "Pneumatos" (Gk. for "spirit") sounds like "nomos" (Gk. for "law").  So Paul is saying, the real 'law' that sets you free isn't the law (nomos) of Moses - it's the "law" (nomos) of the Spirit (pneumatas).

Here are Moo's closing words on chapter 2:

"Verse 2, we might say, is speaking directionly about neither justification nor sanctification but about that "realm transfer" that is the presupposition of both.  As such, it significantly advances the discussion of chaps. 5-7 by introducing the Spirit as a key agent of liberation from the old realm of sin and death."

[1] p. 234, Indwelling Sin, in "Overcoming Sin and Temptation", edited by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic.  Italics their own.

***   Update 9/17  ***
One thought I had after posting this was that I believe there is a slight difference in Moo's position and Owen's.  Moo (and Fee) see "law", in 8:2a as epexegetical.  That is - they see it as just another word for "Spirit".  This is important because it means that they see the Spirit as the agent that is setting the believer free (instead of the law-ish aspect of the Spirit, as, I think, Owen interpreted it).

However, though both Moo and Fee (is it odd that both of these men have a consonant-vowel-vowel last name?) agree that "law" is epexegetical here, they actually still have a mild disagreement.  Moo sees "law" acting as, more or less, a metonymy.  He thinks Paul is intentionally brining to the reader's mind this aspect of the Spirit - the way the Spirit powerfully works in the believer's life.  Fee, however, doesn't see it this way: he thinks "law" is used purely as a rhetorical device - a segue from talking about the Law of Moses to talking about the Spirit.  It's an odd position for him to hold, especially since the title of his book is "God's Empowering Presence".

China Roses

Last Friday we went to the botanical gardens on the campus of JiaoTong University. Though the campus is across the street from our complex, it took 10 minutes by e-bike to make it to the gardens. More pictures will come later, but first we'll showcase the roses in bloom...

No clue what this says, but it combines Chinese and roses! ;)

We are blessed to have such beauty close to us!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Our little Myrtle

 When we chose the name Hadassah, we didn't do it for it's most common meaning, which is "myrtle tree." While trees are pretty, we didn't choose to name a daughter after one - we preferred to name her after someone she could look to for inspiration. Hadassah, also Queen Esther in the Bible, was a great choice, as she displayed such courage and faith.

In re-checking for this post, I found that some say Hadassah also means "bride" or "star" and another source claimed it meant "compassion" which is pretty neat. :)

When my mom reminded me of the meaning of Hadassah's name in conjunction with the crepe myrtles blooming at the base of our apartment building, I couldn't help but get a picture of her with them. She has brought such beauty to our lives, just like these flowers have to our past few weeks.

All manner of unrighteousness (Rom 1:29a)

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice."
- The Apostle Paul, Romans 1:29 (b)

This week, we'll go word-by-word through a short sentence of Romans 1: the first half of verse 29.  It's the opening of the vice list that forms the climax of Paul's entire argument in Romans 1:18-32, namely that all of mankind is justly under the condemnation of God.  This argument is so crucial to understand to where Paul is going to be going soon.  If you don't understand the bad news, you'll never understand the good news that comes later. [1]  Let's listen up as Paul painfully describes our state.

They were filled with all manner of
Notice that Paul says "filled with" in the passive tense.  The filling is happening to them.   It doesn't say that we filled ourselves with these things.  This is something God has done.  The idea of God being the creator of evil isn't new to the Bible.  It is found in Isaiah and other places. [2]

  • Greek: Adikia ἀδικία
  • Parallel vices: Injustice, wickedness
  • Obvious Examples:
    • Taking or giving a bribe
    • Overlooking the crimes of the guilty
    • Punishing the innocent
    • Perpetuation the corruption of "the system"

C.E.B. Cranfield describes this Greek word as the striking out against the just order of God.  So, a good enough parallel would be "injustice".[3]  Romans 1:29-31 is a long vice list of 21 sins, so it is no small thing that the word Paul chose to start out the list was "unrighteousness".  Paul is trying to point out (as he also does in 1:18) that God is just and righteous and that we are just the opposite.

  • Greek: Poneria πονερία
  • Rhymes with: gonorrhea
  • Obvious examples:
    • Sin [4]
Have you ever noticed that many of the words in this vice list are just the negation of something good?  "Un-righteousness" (a-dikia), "without-understanding" (a-sunetous), "without-faithfulness" (a-sunthetous), "without-affection" (a-storgous), "without-mercy" (a-neleaymonas).  This mirrors the way the Bible most often represents evil: as without that which is good. [5] According to the Bible, evil was not a part of the original "good" creation: it entered in later. Therefore, according to the Bible, evil is not a substance that exists independently on its own.  It is not an autonomous entity. [6] Evil is just the corruption of what is good.

Therefore, we might expect that the greatest evil should be derived from the greatest good.  Some theologians have recognized this and have deduced that since the greatest good is the gospel, therefore the greatest evils must be, or stem from, corruptions of that gospel.

This rings true even in our own experience.  All of our sins stem from false gospels.  As one example, I'll use one of the most common false gospels of our day: the prosperity gospel. The "prosperity gospel" teaches that you can can measure how much God is blessing someone's life by the amount of material health and wealth that person has.  We often look down our theological noses at those who hold that belief - but how many of us actually believe this in practice?  This leads us to the next word in the vice list.

  • Greek: Pleonexia πλεοξία
  • Parallel vices: Greed, envy
  • Obvious Examples:
    • Have you ever sat in church and seen another husband loving his wife well and thought, "Why don't I have a husband like that?  I deserve a husband like that."
    • Desiring the paycheck someone else has

As I was saying, many of us practice prosperity gospel ethics every day of our lives.  When we are confronted with someone who seems more "blessed" than we are (materially), why does it mess us up so much inside?  Maybe it's easy if it's a super Christian - someone you know is suffering anyways.  "Sure, let them have the riches; I know he's a worthy man."  But it really gets under our skin, doesn't it, when we see riches and honor given to worthless and wicked men.

But don't you see that this is a perversion of the gospel?  We are warned in the Proverbs not to envy a wicked man - "for the devious person is an abomination to Yahweh" (Prov 3:31-32).  The point of the wise parent in this verse is: these material possessions that you see are not the end of the story.  Don't be so deceived!  They will get what's coming to them.  There will be a day of reckoning when the righteous will receive honor and the wicked will only have the reverse - destruction of the honor they had and eternal dishonor.

But how often we don't trust God and instead measure our blessing in terms of the comforts and riches of this fleeting life.  God keep us from these tendencies.  This is why it so important for us to keep the gospel at the center.  Later on, in chapter 2, Paul will tell us that a key part of his gospel is that God has a day of wrath coming.  We need our eschatology to inform and comfort our hearts.

Malice / Murder / Maliciousness
But not only do we need it to inform and comfort our hearts - we need it to restrain them from evil.

In verse 29, "malice" follows "covetousness" and "murder" follows "envy".  This is probably intentional on the part of Paul. James 4:2 says "You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel."  [Envy and murder were also connected in several extra-biblical texts of the time; cf. Moo.]

How often have you wanted to inflict pain on someone else?  How often, when you are badly wronged by someone else, do you want to "get even"?  "Vigilante justice"; retaliation.  "I want them to experience as much pain as they caused me."  This is often, again, because we aren't trusting the Judge to truly get His vengeance in the last day.

The failure to trust that there will be a reckoning can often lead to a bitterness in us that turns into malice in general.  [Dictionary.com describe malice as "desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile impulse or out of deep-seated meanness."]


From this short text (1:29a), we get the "hard evidence" that proves the assertion of verse 28: we are depraved.  God has "given us over".  I think I will end this post with a fitting quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
"If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” [7]

[1] As John Owen has said: "As the world by its wisdom never knew God aright, so the wise men of it were always utterly ignorant of the "inbred" evil in themselves and others. [Yet] without a supposition of it, not any of [the benefits of Christ] can be truly known or savingly believed." (Indwelling Sin, introduction)

[2] For more on this, I recommend the article from Henri Blocher on Evil in the New Dictionary of Biblical theology.  A representative quote: "The Bible stands out among sacred texts for its preoccupation (some might say 'obsession') with evil... [yet] the very texts that portray God as the author of evil also declare his indignation against evil"

[3] For an excellent overview of what the Bible has to say about injustice, I recommend the relevant passages of Bruce Waltke's 2 volume commentary on the book of Proverbs.

[4] Henri Blocher: "If evil is perversion, its original locus is the perversion of freedom: the primary evil is sin."

[5] See ibid.

[6] Following Augustine here. "Every actual entity is good [omnis natura bonum est.] Nothing evil exists in itself, but only as an evil aspect of some actual entity." - Augustine, Enchiridion, chapter 4 (link)

[7] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Greek Sounds in Romans 1:28-31

Hoping to write an actual post on Romans 1:28-31 sometime.  This one is more of just a quick observation I had that would really be too distracting to try to add it onto a more conceptual post on the topic as it would probably detract from the mood of the post.  But this section [1] is super rich if you know how to pronounce Greek.  There are all sorts of "sound-alike" things going on.  Here are five that I've counted:

(1) The edok(i)masan [2] vs ad(o)kimon sound-alike pair.  In verse 28, Paul uses the Greek word "edok(i)masan" for "did not approve" (retaining God in their knowledge), and in response, God is said to give them over to a depraved ("ad(o)kimon") mind.  They sort of sound a like and a lot of scholars have caught onto that.

(2) The "ias" in verse 30 of the vice list.   ἀδικίᾳ πονηρίᾳ πλεονεξίᾳ κακίᾳ.  The accent mark is always on the "i" of the "ia".  So it sounds cool to say them in a row.  If I were a preacher, I think I would say the four words in a row and then at the end add "mama mia" just to see who was tracking.

(3) The envy/murder pair. (verse 30) These are linked conceptually (see James and also other works of Hellenistic Judaism) but also phonetically: "φθόνου φόνου", or "psth(o)nou ps(o)nou".

(4) The "foolish, faithless" pair. (verse 31) "ἀσυνέτους, ἀσυνθέτους" pair.  "asoun(e)tous, asunth(e)tous".  ESV: "foolish, faithless".

(5) The last four words (verse 31) in general all begin with "a" and there is a really cool assonance that Paul achieves by putting them together like this.  Of all the English versions, I think the ESV best matches this: "foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless".


[1] The Greek passage with the words color coded by their numbering above if you're interested:  28καὶ καθὼς οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν τὸνθεὸν ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει, παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς  θεὸς εἰς ἀδόκιμον νοῦν, ποιεῖν τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα,29πεπληρωμένους πάσῃ ἀδικίᾳ πονηρίᾳ πλεονεξίᾳ κακίᾳ, μεστοὺς φθόνου φόνου ἔριδος δόλουκακοηθείας, ψιθυριστάς, 30καταλάλους, θεοστυγεῖς, ὑβριστάς, ὑπερηφάνους, ἀλαζόνας, ἐφευρετὰςκακῶν, γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, 31ἀσυνέτους, ἀσυνθέτους, ἀστόργους, νελεήμονας: 

[2] The parenthesis around letters is meant to indicate that this is where the accent falls.

with 4 strings

My guitar strings keep breaking.  (For those who know guitar annotation, this is played with D-A-D-X-A-X.)

(Open this in a new tab.)

It's really fun what you can get by with when you only have 4 strings.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mid-Autumn Festival

Monday was Mid Autumn Festival. It seemed similar to our Labor Day in that everyone had the day off and families relaxed and went places together. It's based on the moon (we had a lovely full moon the night before!) and the tradition is to give "moon cakes" to friends.

That morning I skyped my parents, as Ryan worked from home to catch up on hours. The previous week he'd had to take off work for a doctor's appointment and a trip to a police station to register our address - where Hadassah had her picture taken with an officer by his request. ;)

Anyways, once I finished skyping, I suddenly got hit with a wave of homesickness. I really missed my parents. And I really missed my younger sister. I just wanted to be there, not here. I cried. Sometimes you don't realize how much you love people, how much you want to be there as they go through life, until you're across the world from them. But God was gracious to have my sister skype in unexpectedly soon after. And then that evening we went over to our neighbor's house for dinner, and it was a wonderful time.

They've truly become friends. When she first knocked on our door last week after being gone for a month, I almost hugged her. (It doesn't seem part of the culture here, or I would have!) It struck me that she had truly become a friend then, a familiar face that I'm excited to see.

His parents had come back with them to stay so her mom could took a break from caring for their son, and they made us an amazing treat: dumplings! They'd worked for 3 hours and made SO many... we ate as much as we could hold and there were still more left that they urged us to eat and we had to refuse. :)

Hadassah loved the attention from the grandma, though every 5 minutes or so she'd get afraid I'd leave her and come crawling over to me. ;) But the grandma always thought of something new to entice her back, including bouncing her on this blow-up horse tirelessly.

After dinner it was conversation and children playing - always in motion, those two! We have been blessed with some great conversations with them recently. It's great getting to know them on a deeper level! 

 Once we'd given the dumplings a little time to digest, it was time to share a big fancy moon cake! It was partly for the birthdays of the grandparents too, so we sang "Happy Birthday" in Chinese and enjoyed the treat. I'd brought over a cinnamon apple bread for them too.

They also asked why we chose Hadassah's name, and I was able to tell them the story of Hadassah (Esther) from the Bible with more detail. They listened attentively to how Hadassah was chosen out of all the women to be the queen of Persia, of the threat to her people the Jews, and how she prayed and then had faith and courage to go to the king and ask him to save her people. I think they like stories, so hopefully we can share more with them!

The littles are cute. They're still not old enough to play together that much, but they interact some and he will call 'Dassah by name. :) During dessert, they reached across to hold hands briefly. I think Hadassah started it, by dropping some of her food on his arm... but at least they're interacting! ;)

After time with them, the loneliness wasn't so great. It's hard being away from family and old friends, but it is a blessing to make new ones here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Highlight of Hadassah's Day

 I smile to think that something that causes us a little annoyance can bring Hadassah such joy, but it does. Guess it's just the way God works sometimes. :)

She truly loves it. She'll see the bottles of water and point and squeak happy noises. Maybe it's because she just likes going outside...

 I carry Hadassah and she carries the empty bottles all the way down our stairs, then I let her walk with them. She usually lasts almost all the way there before dropping them, and enjoys making music by banging them on the curb along the way.

 Seeing the water machine makes Hadassah super excited. She presses the green button to start and then has a hard time being patient while the bottle fills before I let her press the red button. It's kind of neat, because little ones love buttons to press on toys, but these buttons actually accomplish something useful!

 Once the bottles are filled, Hadassah goes in the ERGO while mommy carries the bottles home. But her tasks aren't done..

 Hadassah LOVES scanning the key sensor to open the door. She tries to go towards the door of every apartment building when we walk sometimes, wanting to scan the keys. Guess she feels powerful or likes the beep or something. :)

This time Ryan was with us since it was Saturday, so he took over carrying the bottles so Hadassah was out of the ERGO. But now she's learned how to reach her arm out of the ERGO and scan the key both at the gate into the complex and at our building.

 Once while we were on a walk and someone stopped to talk to Ryan, Hadassah was restless and there were a few stairs nearby, so to have something to do, I taught her how to lift her foot to step up on them. She caught on almost immediately, and has been eager to walk up stairs and anything else she can. Even if it's something as tall as her, she'll lift her foot up high, thinking she can step up on it...

But it's pretty cute, if I do say so myself, and walking up our stairs (sometimes she'll go up all 3 flights!) helps burn off some of her seemingly endless energy. ;)