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Aída Besançon Spencer, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament, & William David Spencer, Th.D., Ranked Adjunct Professor of Theology & the Arts, teach at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, MA. Both are
Posted 2/12/14 at 2:46 PM | Aida and William Spencer |
Guest blog by Paul Bricker, hospital chaplain
In the Bible, believers complain all the time when things go wrong. In fact, Lamentations is an entire book of complaints by Jeremiah, the whining prophet. And the Holy Spirit made it canonical, a part of the Bible! Thus, we whiners can learn a lot from passages like Lamentations 3:1-25, since I believe God wants us to learn how to complain!
Lamentations is a chiastic poem. The word “chiastic” comes from the Greek letter X which is pronounced chi. A chiastic poem is ½ an X, if one cuts the X in half from top to bottom. One of the keys of a chiastic poem is that the central message may be in the middle of the poem. In the Bible, there are numerous chiastic poems. The structure of Lamentations is as follows:
Chapter I. Lament over Jerusalem. 22 verses.
Chapter II. Lament of God's Heavy Hand over Jerusalem. 22 verses.
Chapter III. Lament over Jeremiah's suffering. 66 verses. FULL POST
Posted 1/1/14 at 12:01 PM | Aida and William Spencer |
When it comes to aging, the youth-driven world culture seems to offer us limericks such as these:
You’re barely alive at 65,
You cease getting kicks at 66,
You’re halfway to heaven at 67,
You’re way out of date at 68,
You’re over the line at 69,
You’re coming up empty at 70,
There’s no more fun at 71,
The joys are few at 72,
They don’t recognize me at 73,
You’re out the door at 74,
You’re done with that jive at 75,
You’re always sick at 76,
But, I say,
You’ve still got plenty at 70,
Your opinion is weighty at 80,
You’re the Lord’s mighty at 90,
You’ve a bounteous head at 100,
You can do it again at 110,
You’re a horn of plenty at 120.
As I contemplate my 67th birthday, I find it difficult to turn from 66 to 67. Sixty-six, after all, is close to 65 and 65 and 66 are landmark years when one is completely eligible for social security and pension benefits and reductions for plays, trains, and other celebratory activities. But, 67, instead, looks forward to 70. At 70 one could more likely get a limiting physical disease or disability. It is not as likely as at 80, but one’s memory could go. One’s sight is definitely deteriorating, but maybe the Lord might help, as the Lord did with Ahijah, who though “his eyes were dim because of his age” still received a word from the Lord (1 Kings 14:4-5). (You can note this in the big print version.) Moses only promises we may live to 70 or perhaps 80, “if we are strong” (Ps 90:10), yet he lived until 120 and his “sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated” (Deut 34:7). But, he had been in close presence to the everlasting God! We definitely will not pass 120 since God declares that is our maximum age (Gen 6:3). FULL POST
Posted 12/21/13 at 10:43 AM | Aida and William Spencer
Can Christians do funny? Apparently, Yes.
“Silver Bells,” from Pure Flix Entertainment (www.pureflix.com/silverbells), is a movie that almost slipped by us. It did not register at our local AMC, which is normally pretty good on independent films, perhaps going direct to DVD and Walmart. But, thanks to the extensive and impressive range of our local public library, it surfaced there and gave us quite a surprise.
Bruce Boxleitner, who is a fine actor we’ve seen many times over the years, is a stand-out in the main role, but the cast as a whole turns in an excellent performance. Directing, producing, editing are all deftly done and the script is well written and delightful.
The story focuses on a competitive dad who overdoes it on the epic scale. Winning has become everything until he has all but morphed himself into a walking parable of Mark 8:36, “What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?” (TNIV) This dad is in danger of losing soul, family, job, as his competitive edge slices everybody around him. FULL POST
Posted 11/30/13 at 4:19 PM | Aida and William Spencer |
Go see the film “Black Nativity” and be edified and moved. So far this movie is the Christmas movie of 2013.
Last week we were in Baltimore, Maryland for the 65th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society and we were struck by the rich African-American heritage of the City. As the chief city of a border state during the USA’s Civil War whose primal section of track birthed the railway system that still crosses the USA, Baltimore was the destination of the “Underground Railroad” that carried escaping slaves to freedom. The great statesman Frederick Douglass fled here in the disguise of a sailor (claiming he never took his [non-existent] papers to sea) and Baltimore now has a national site and museum in his honor. Everywhere Baltimore’s African-American legacy is honored today, but in 1924, when the sensitive young poet, James Mercer Langston Hughes was working as a busboy in Washington, D.C., the east coast along with the rest of the nation was still oppressed by segregation and estrangement between people groups. In one of the most provocative poems about oppression in the North, “Incident,” fellow Harlem Renaissance poet, Countee Cullen described “riding in old Baltimore,” as an eight year old, “heart-filled, head-filled with glee,” but after “smiling” at another traveling child and having that smile returned with a rude gesture and a racial slur, “I saw the whole of Baltimore/From May until December/Of all the things that happened there/That’s all that I remember.” Like all of the USA, it was a city that needed reconciliation and forgiveness. FULL POST
Posted 11/28/13 at 5:51 PM | Aida and William Spencer
Manhee Lee of ShinchunjiGuest blog by Doomin ChoDoomin Cho was born in South Korea. Causing trouble as a wandering street kid, he had no purpose for life. While he was wandering with alcohol, helpless and desperate, God came into his life. Through the Psalms of David in the Bible, Doomin experienced the grace of God as David did. From this point forward, Doomin committed his life to Jesus and has been following his call into full-time ministry.
The number of the Christians in South Korea is decreasing due to many reasons. The major ones are the corruption of church leaders, the wave of liberalism, the loss of functional churches, secular culture, and the growth of heresy. But these days, these named failings of the global church are meeting a particular challenge in South Korea that is called “Shinchunji.”
This heresy tempts not only non-Christians but also existing Christians. Many Shinchunji members are working in orthodox churches, disguising themselves as leaders or lay people. They try to divide these churches and to bring church members into their own church. Many churches in Korea are becoming victims of Shinchunji. Its main strategy in attacking the churches is to play one against the other. Its proselytizers try to make church members doubt each other and the teachings of church. Then Shinchunji members bring those whom they have made discontented with their church to a Shinchunji Bible study. FULL POST
Posted 10/19/13 at 3:53 PM | Aida and William Spencer
When we were young and living in New Jersey, we used to hear about every forthcoming Billy Graham movie months ahead from our church leaders. We were urged to attend and to bring someone with us and to pray that the good news was broadcast to many in our area. Times have certainly changed. We saw no movie previews (who could afford them?), heard nothing from our Christian friends, but we happened a week ago to pass a movie poster at our local AMC theater advertising “I’m in Love with a Church Girl” by the Reverence Gospel Media Films (RGM) and we decided we must come back next week. We were delighted to attend a “Billy Graham”-type film made for today. As in the past, up on the screen, we saw people struggling with moral issues, citing the Bible (as they would in any Christian setting), praying, discussing become a Christian, and eventually coming to church to meet and hear a pastor (as opposed to going to a Billy Graham crusade). However, these Christian families drank wine, the heroine wore short dresses and low cut blouses, and lived in some opulence (with a built-in pool in back). Nevertheless, as in Christian films of our youth, we heard the same message, but now expressed as, “If God is in it, there is no limit!” FULL POST
Posted 10/5/13 at 5:19 AM | Aida and William Spencer
How Should We Handle Suffering?
The following is a guest blog written by hospice Chaplain Paul Bricker to Christians on a hospice team after an unusually difficult week.
There are many things that can trouble us: trouble with one's marriage, trouble with children and/or grandchildren, trouble with relationships, trouble at work, trouble with finances, trouble with weather (did anyone ever hear of a derecho prior to this past summer?), trouble with one's health or the health of a loved one…. The list can go on and on….
Jesus has an answer for all our troubles in life: "Let not your heart be troubled" (John 14:1). This verse should be seen as a billboard: "LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED." Why should our hearts be trouble free? The answer is the rest of what Jesus says in that verse: "Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me" (John 14:1). We need to give ourselves more and more to Jesus. We need to trust our Savior more and more. We need to fall in love with the Savior more and more.
In life there are times when we are hit by many troubles at once. The Apostle Paul writes about a time when he was overwhelmed by trouble: "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life…" (2 Cor.1:8). How many times are we troubled so much that we can say with the Apostle Paul that "we despaired even of life"? Paul confesses how terrible the trouble had fallen upon him. He continues: "But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us…" (2 Cor. 1:9-10). What hope!!! FULL POST
Posted 9/14/13 at 5:47 PM | Aida and William Spencer
Guest blog by Jeanne DeFazio, currently an Athanasian Scholar at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary-Boston's Center for Urban Ministerial Education and a co-editor with John Lathrop of Creative Ways to Build Christian Community, House of Prisca and Aquila Series (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2013).
On the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s March on the Mall, President Obama restated the freedom principles from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." On August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands heard Dr. King deliver his most famous speech “I Have a Dream.” On Saturday August 24, 2013, Dr. King’s image and epic speech were broadcast on an IMAX screen over the National Mall to mark the 50th anniversary of this event.
According to Yvonnette O’Neal, founder of My Child Ministry, who attended Saturday’s event, the memorial participants were culturally diverse and a strong feeling of good will prevailed among the brothers and sisters of every color who attended. Ms. O’Neal was a civil right’s activist who integrated all-white schools in Mississippi fifty years ago. She noted the economic and educational advances of African Americans but insisted that Martin Luther King’s dream will not be fully realized until all God’s people serve Him equally as brothers and sisters. Ms. O’Neal reflected on Dr. King’s famous civil rights speech, “Let my people go,” wherein Dr. King envisioned a brotherhood of humankind united under God to bring international justice and equality: FULL POST
Posted 8/26/13 at 1:11 PM | Aida and William Spencer
For a long time now we have been gravitating toward 1940s movies even though most of them were made before we were born. We like movies from this era because they tend to be more moral than many earlier and later movies. For one thing, there are consequences for actions. For another, successful, strong, and moral women are presented as the norm, especially during the war years.
Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of Movieguide and chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, in his recent book How to Succeed in Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul), confirms our preferences. He cites the noted singer and actor Pat Boone, who recalls the clean movies of yesteryear, in “the heyday of the film business,” when “families used to go together at least once a week to see a good movie in the neighborhood cinema.” “You could always count on it being a happy family experience…movies that don’t offend a large portion of their audience tend to make more money,” he adds, than those that “purposely insert foul language and other offensive material.”
When he was very young, Bill remembers his mother, who was a young working girl during the depression, loved to watch the Maisie movies whenever they would come on television. Bill would enjoy how much his mom would enjoy them, breaking in to tell him stories about her own experiences that paralleled Maisie’s. The heroine (played by the versatile Ann Sothern) was a type of “Rosie the Riveter” with a strong moral center. Maisie was always aggressive, forthright, sober (unless deceived), and moral. Her prototype, Rosie the Riveter, was the symbol for World War II women who worked in the factories creating the equipment for the war effort. Rosie the Riveter had a strong work ethic with a solid moral center. FULL POST
Posted 5/18/13 at 7:13 AM | Aida and William Spencer |
A guest blog by Paul Bricker
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matt 6:6).
In one of my last conversations with my father before he died in 2011, he shared with me one of his great fears about me. He lamented: "When you were growing up, mother and I thought that you would never be able to speak."
I grew up with a severe speech impediment. I did not say my first sentence until I was 5 and ½ years old. My first sentence was to my younger sister: "Darah, don't duck your thumb!". It means: "Sarah, don't suck your thumb".
All through my early years, my mother would take me on Saturday morning to meet with a speech therapist. We would go over words and sentences trying to help me to speak. I still stuttered and stuttered…. FULL POST