Ancient Tablets Discovered From Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon

One of the clay tablets on display in the Bible Lands Museum exhibit. / Photo by Olivier Fitoussi

One of the clay tablets on display in the Bible Lands Museum exhibit.  Photo by Olivier Fitoussi from Ha’Aretz.com.

Fascinating find that’s been in the news in the last week or so!  Check out the details here and here.

Archaeology once again illuminates the biblical text, adding dimension to what we read about in the exilic and post-exilic prophets of the Old Testament.

Particularly noteworthy was this quote: “Prof. Wayne Horowitz, one of the archaeologists who studied the tablets, says this is the most important ancient Jewish archive since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Wow.

An Older Copy of The Gospel of Mark?

PHOTO: Rylands Library Papyrus P52, online at http://www.christiantoday.com/article/researchers.claim.to.have.found.ancient.gospel.of.mark.fragment.in.mummys.mask/46387.htm

Check this out.

From the article: “The discovery of a small papyrus fragment containing words from the Book of Mark could end up being the earliest copy of a Christian gospel on record, according to experts.

The biblical text, which came from Egypt, was reportedly placed on a sheet of papyrus before the document was recycled and used to create a mummy mask.”

What an amazing discovery (if it indeed proves to be Mark).  And how amazing that this could be discovered from the layers used to create the mummy mask – wow.

“We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries,” New Testament professor Craig Evans told LiveScience. “Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters.”

I can’t wait to get a look at this once it’s published (later this year, according to the article).  What a fascinating peek this could provide into daily life in the early centuries of the Christian era.  I believe that’s the great benefit of archaeology to biblical studies – illuminating the context of the text itself.

Inspiring Courageous Decisions

Karate MottoEarlier this week, I had breakfast with a friend who is part of an organization that is focused on helping leaders lead better. Their tag line is “inspiring courageous decisions.”  The way they do that is by helping leaders to accurately assess the current state of the business, church, or organization that they lead.  By defining reality, facing what is, they can begin to move toward what could be.  He wants to inspire leaders to make courageous decisions, and that always starts with an honest look at the current reality.

It was a very inspiring meeting; I caught his enthusiasm and passion for helping others.  He is definitely working in his “sweet spot” where his spiritual giftedness, passion, and skills intersect.

How about you?

When I meet someone who LOVES what they do, it is so obvious to me.  As Ben Zander says, “their eyes are shining.”  Are your eyes shining?  Are you working and serving in your sweet spot?  Or are you working what my friend Mark calls a J-O-B, just counting the minutes till the workday ends?

I believe leaders should be passionate about what they do and what they lead.  If they’re not, who will be?  Passion is catching, just like vision.  If we are excited about what’s going on, our team will be FAR more likely to be as well! If we’re not, we can’t expect them to be.

I want to see leaders grow and develop and learn.  I want to see them use their leadership gift to lead with all diligence (Romans 12:8).  I want to see them inspire others.  And like the friend I had breakfast with, I want to see them make courageous decisions.  That begins with knowing the current reality.

What is your current reality?  Are you leading from a place of optimistic passion?  Are you leveraging your leadership gift for the benefit of others?  That’s the way to find real fulfillment and growth as a leader.

How can you get there if you’re not already?  And how can you stay there if you are?  Here are 3 suggestions.

1) Learn from other leaders who are passionate about what they’re leading.  I make it a habit to regularly get around other leaders who are farther down the road than I am and learn from them.  Sometimes that’s in a one-on-one or small group setting, and sometimes it’s at a conference where leadership is being taught and discussed.  This year Southview is hosting two leadership development conferences – the Leadercast in May and the Global Leadership Summit in August (you can register to attend using those links).  If you’re not being intentional about your own personal leadership development, who will be?  Make the investment of time and resources to get better as a leader.

2) Find a hobby or interest (other than your main job) that inspires passion in you.  I love to teach, and for the last five years I’ve taught online courses in Old and New Testament Survey for Itawamba Community College.  This year, I’m teaching an “in person” class once a week for Washington University of Virginia.  I love to teach and help people unpack the historical, linguistic, archaeological, and societal context of the Bible so that they can better understand and apply it to their lives, and in teaching college classes, I get to use a gift outside my normal traffic pattern of life and use that gift to help others.  I find the discussion and insights of a classroom invigorating, and it generates a higher level of passion in me that I then bring back to my work in the local church.

3) Be careful who you allow to speak into your life.  We all know there are people who speak life into us, and they are people who do not – I’ve heard the latter called very draining people (VDPs). You choose who you will allow to speak into your life.  You determine, in most cases, who you will spend the majority of your time with.  The people around you can have a huge impact on your passion level and optimism.  Choose wisely who you will allow inside, whose words you will internalize and truly listen to.

What other suggestions would you add to help leaders get and stay passionate and optimistic about what they lead?

Why Does Archaeology Matter?

IMG_0321I ran across this article yesterday from a self-described “archaeologist in training,” and I thought he did a good job explaining why archaeology matters.

For too long, Christ-followers have distanced themselves from academic disciplines like archaeology, believing that science and faith are at odds.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength.  Notice – love God with our minds.  That means we don’t check our brains at the door when we choose to follow Jesus.  And anyone who argues that we follow by blind faith doesn’t fully understand the teaching of Scripture.  I don’t see blind faith requested anywhere, but faith based on God’s past actions and His unchanging character.  That’s not blind faith – that’s faith with a foundation.

Archaeology matters.  As the writer of this article states, it “creates a framework for more informed, thoughtful study of the Bible.”  That’s a good thing!   Archaeology “exposes ancient ruins and provides clues to the way people lived so we can better understand the cultures and people mentioned in the text.”  It helps us realize that the people mentioned in Scripture were real people, living real lives, in real places, just like us.  When we get that, what we read truly begins to come alive, and we can empathize with and learn from the biblical books in fresh ways.

If you’re interested on how the disciplines of archaeology and Biblical studies interact and why it’s an important field of study for followers of Jesus to engage in, check the article out.  And if you’re REALLY interested in getting your hands dirty (pun intended), join me next year as I return to the dig at Tall el-Hammam in Jordan (believed to be the site of the biblical city of Sodom).  In January/February, I’m taking a team from the church I serve, Southview Community Church, and I’d love to have you join us as we go, dig, and learn together.  You can get more details and register for the dig here.

Have you ever been on an archaeological dig?  How have you seen faith and science intersect in positive and illuminating ways?

The Church and the Academy

books-13I am a pastor.  I also teach as an adjunct faculty member.

I’m a student of the Bible. I’m also a student of leadership.  And I’m pursuing a Ph.D. in archaeology and Old Testament.

I live with a foot in two worlds.  And because I do, I have a perspective that I think is a little unique.

For many, many years, the church led out in academic pursuits.  Much of scholarship was written by leaders in the church over the centuries following Jesus.  But in the 19th century, with the rise of theories such as evolution and the documentary hypothesis, the church began to disengage from academic pursuits, with the result being that the academic community was no longer influenced by and impacted by followers of Jesus.  And the results were predictable.

I believe it’s time for that to change.

One day, Jesus was asked “what is the greatest commandment?”  Out of 613 laws that made up the Mosaic law, which was the greatest?

Jesus response informs today’s topic.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” I believe that loving God with all our mind means that we have to grow intellectually, to stretch and be challenged and learn consistently.   For me, that’s a formal program of learning ending with a degree.  It’s a consistent diet of reading (and not always people I agree with!).  And it’s going and listening to people speak and lecture on a variety of topics (again, not always people I agree with!).

I want to love God with all my mind.  And I believe that as followers of Jesus, we are all called to do that.

I believe that it’s time for us to return to active involvement in the academic community.  I’m not saying all of us should be teachers or educational professionals, but I believe that all of us can contribute to the work of followers of Jesus in the academy as we are each gifted.

I’m still working out what that looks like.  I don’t have all of the answers.  But I do believe that we can no longer ignore this issue.  The next generation is watching and listening to those who teach, and if followers of Jesus don’t get involved and engage in this area, we cannot be surprised when this generation walks away from the faith.  Currently, 85% of those who grow up in church are disengaged by their 25th birthday.  I’m not ok with that.  And I believe we can do something about it.

Do you believe this is important work for the church to be involved in?  What do you see as a way the church can get involved?  How can you engage in this?