Evangelical Textual Criticism wants to get the word out for the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, which is freely accessible online:

However, the name ‘Comprehensive’ is fully justified. On this site you can find primary texts in all the early and middle forms of Aramaic. You have electronic versions of the Peshitta (OT and NT), Old Syriac, Christian Palestinian Aramaic versions, and of course the Targums.

What’s more, the editions are normally the best available editions. The editions of the Targums are far better than those you might pay for in a printed edition like that of Sperber. Each word of the text is linked through to a lexicon, so that you can look at that word in all other early Aramaic dialects.

Okay, so they haven’t produced a Newsletter since 1996, and the format takes some time to get used to, but the content is amazing.

Tim Challies offers some solid suggestions for reading: 1) Read. 2) Read widely. 3) Read deliberately.  From Read More, Read Better:

More than any other question that comes in via email, I’m asked this one: “How do you read so much?” While granting that I do read a lot, I think it bears mention that there are lots of people who read as much as I do or a lot more. The difference is that I write about what I’m reading, so you’re more aware of it than you are with most of these voracious readers.

Every year or so I sit down to write out a few thoughts on reading. I’m doing so again today, offering a few thoughts on how you can read more and read better. This is adapted from a list I created a couple of years ago. Actually, what I’ll do is write today about how to read more and read more widely and then tomorrow we’ll work on reading better.

HT: Z

I’ve often wondered where the church would be twenty years from now. It already seems like there is a shortage of men in churches, as well as in seminaries across the board. There is in general a lack of male leadership in the Christian home, which has a domino effect on the newer generations of young men. This article, When You’re Weary of Worshiping Alone, gives a glimpse of women dealing with the absence of their husbands in the church:

After several years of worshiping alone, Debe became discouraged – and sometimes even depressed – that her husband was not joining her in the most important quest in her life, and she was not growing because of it. She finally decided it was time to leave the marriage so she could find someone who would share her heart, worship alongside her, and encourage her in her walk with God. But Debe’s pastor talked her out of it. He encouraged her to start focusing on her growth with the Lord, not her husband’s. As Debe began to do that, she discovered that there was a whole new side of God she never really knew before.

The graver issue that this article doesn’t address is the ministry toward men: how can the church develop male leadership? Here are some thoughts:

1) Outreach to men. I don’t think fight clubs and UFC events are the panacea for the absence of masculinity. But if men can get together for some event or purpose, perhaps the church can think in terms of meeting certain needs of male bonding to develop relationships.

2) Outreach to young men. The church can be a place where young men can receive guidance, attention, and direction.

3) Outreach to families as a whole. The church can certainly address the myriad of issues that affect the home from roles and responsibilities to various needs that can only be met when the family comes together in unity.

Organic churches have been in headlines. Now the question is whether they will endure. Every ministry has risks involved. I think it’s a matter of how these ministries will endure.

The article speaks of possible burnouts. That’s just inevitable. And the author is banking on the inevitability. Seminary students who are out of the ministry are classic examples. None of the six youth pastors I’ve had growing up are in full-time ministry. It’s true. They got tired of ministry.

So is the organic church the answer? The author doesn’t seem to think so. But he’s willing to encourage his fellow churchmen that they ought to be focused on obedience rather than results, because setbacks will happen.

I fear however that this “encouragement” is not really encouraging. These “new” ways of doing church may not be new–so say the pioneers because of the early church. Rightly so. But the leaders of the church need to continually replenish the co-laborers around them, the ones who are carrying on the smaller units of church life. This is hard to do. It doesn’t get done, at least well enough with the pastor(s) being renewed themselves.

So I would say that yes, burnouts are inevitable, but it’s all the reason to get ready for those times of valleys to loo up to the heights of the hilltop experience.

From Long Live Organic Church!

Take away the extreme examples, and look at the ongoing, normal, everyday life of the local church, century after century. It is not a bright example of evil, but merely good intentions in a coma. Institutional. Programmatic. And full of people whose lives look anything but transformed. Churches time and again, in culture after culture, look like they are composed of nothing but sinners. We are kidding ourselves if we think, finally, our generation will turn things around.

This is precisely why many of my seminary classmates have abandoned ministry. They ran into a brick wall of legalism or lethargy or just plain Christian hardness of heart and said, “Enough is enough.” I have one California friend who would much rather put up with the headaches of the business world than those of the church. I dare say every reader of this column knows one or more ministry leaders who are burned out and angry.

Nancy Guthrie writes for Crossway.blog, asking “Must we be hurt deeply to be used significantly?”

My husband David remembers sitting in chapel in Bible college when a speaker said that a person can not be used significantly by God until he has been hurt deeply. David also remembers feeling that if significant suffering is what is required to be used significantly by God, then perhaps he would rather not be used.

Most of us who are honest feel the same way. We want to be used by God and we might be willing to suffer some, but we want to determine the timing and intensity and method. The truth is, we want our grand abilities and keen insights to make us usable to God, not our broken hearts and crippling weaknesses.

I’ve heard variations of the same statement David heard in chapel throughout the years, and when putting together a collection of material by classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers about suffering for Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering, I looked for where this quote might have originated.

I found something similar by A.W. Tozer, included in his book, The Root of the Righteous where he wrote, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” What I found most intriguing is the context in which Tozer makes the statement. He draws a picture that helps us to see the sense in his hard-hitting proposition…

[read the rest]

These are some good questions from Timmy Brister:

1.  If our church would cease to exist in our city, would it be noticed and missed?
2.  If all the pastors were tragically killed in a car accident, would the church’s ministry cease or fall apart?
3.  If the only possible means of connecting with unbelievers were through the missionary living of our church members, how much would we grow? (I ask this because the early church did not have signs, websites, ads, marketing, etc.)
4.  What are the subcultures within the church?  Do they attract or detract from the centrality of the gospel and mission of the church?
5.  Is our church known more for what we are not/against than what we are/for?
6.  What are we allowing to be our measuring stick of church health? (attendance vs. discipleship; seating capacity vs. sending capacity; gospel growth, training on mission, etc.)
7.  Are the priorities of our church in line with the priorities of Christ’s kingdom?
8.  If our members had 60 seconds to explain to an unbeliever what our church is like, what would you want them to say?  How many do you think are saying that?
9.  If the invisible kingdom of God became visible in our city, what would that look like?
10.  In what ways have we acted or planned in unbelief instead of faith?
[more]

HT: Z

Christianity Today discusses why Pope John Paul whipped himself, and offers an explanation from a Catholic perspective, and also includes Peter T. O’Brien‘s thoughts:

So how do Catholics explain self-flagellation, a practice so foreign to Protestants, let alone non-Christians? Several writers have defended the late pope. Writing for the National Catholic Register, Jimmy Akin faults a “pleasure-obsessed culture” for portraying the pope’s behavior as repulsive.

“Self-mortification teaches humility by making us recognize that there are things more important than our own pleasure,” Akin writes. “It teaches compassion by giving us a window into the sufferings of others—who don’t have a choice in whether they’re suffering. And it strengthens self-control. As well as (here’s the big one I’ve saved for last) encouraging us to follow the example of Our Lord, who made the central act of the Christian religion one of self-denial and (in his case) literal mortification to bring salvation to all mankind.”

Indeed, the pope believed suffering brought him closer to Christ, according to Oder. For precedent, the pope appealed to Colossians 1:24, where the apostle Paul writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” With no parallel in the New Testament, this verse has vexed biblical commentators for centuries. Surveying the Old Testament apocalyptic literature, Peter O’Brien understands “what is lacking” to mean that God has appointed a measure of suffering before the end comes. Paul’s suffering on behalf of the Colossians, whom he never even met, helped to fill that gap. The suffering he endured for the sake of the gospel in his apostolic ministry united him with other Christians and even Christ himself, who suffered untold anguish on the Cross.