Monday, March 30, 2015

Sermon Recap for March 29

In the morning service, the choir presented the musical Thank You for the Cross. It was very good. And very much covered under copyright laws regarding rebroadcasting it, so it’s not here.

Evening sermon came from Psalm 199:9-16. Here’s the audio link. You’ll notice the lighting is odd. The power went out during Q/A time before the sermon, so it was just getting darker as we went…That’s the way it goes.

March 29 PM Sermon

Water buffalo--Philippines

When I was a kid, we lived in the Philippines. No, I did not meet Tim Tebow in that time :) One of the problems we had, as did many of the people there, was access to pure water. You could drink the water, but at times there were risks of disease from it. Especially if there were problems with the purification systems on the Air Force Base.


The solution? Water buffalo. Not the animals, but these giant trailers that the military would fill with purified water and you could and fill a couple of 5-gallon jugs. This would be your drinking water and tooth-brushing water for the next few weeks. (Any cooking water you typically boiled!)



Psalm 119:9-16

1. Consider purity

     A. Is it worth it?

     B. Is it knowable?

     C. Is it standard?

2. Consider the Word

     A. Do you know it?

     B. Do you treasure it?

     C. Do you hold it exclusive above other ideas?

          This is the core of our problem: we put things alongside the Word that do not belong there. Whether it is the latest fads of psychology, the aged wisdom of the last generation, or our favorite preaching heroes, there is absolutely no substitute for the Word.

     Loving the preaching of the Word is not the same as knowing the Word and treasuring. Loving conferences, speakers, teachers, writers, are not the same. If you cannot dig into the Word, then you are missing something. You should value those God has equipped and provided to help you, but  if you are not moving from relying on them to being equipped to grow on your own--you are not growing in the Word.

Come back to the water buffalo with me. It met the need--and in times of crisis, it was enough.

But we couldn't live a life that way. The running need was to fix the problem--drill new wells, deeper wells, fix the equipment. Provide the security to the power grid.

Relying on others to always sort our truth for us is the same thing as always expecting the water buffalo.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Books: Ghost Fleet and The Three Emperors

One of the joys of blogging is free books. These books, though, were not free because of this blog but from the Amazon Vine Review program. I just thought I’d go ahead and share them here.

You should note, dear reader, that these are mainstream/secular published works. Unlike many of the books you will encounter on this blog, these are not at all worthy of consideration as faith-growers or enablers. Instead, these are part of engaging in the wider world and knowing a bit about the culture we live in. The vocabulary is closer to UPS than Chick-fil-A, so filter yourself.

First, Ghost Fleet

When I was in the 8th grade, I read Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising, envisioning the World War 3 that we were almost ready to believe would not happen. I then read a few other books on the subject, such as General Sir John Hackett's The Third World War, which was much more dreadful. And much less engaging as a read.

Today, we do not truly picture the great NATO-USSR conflict of earlier generations. However, there remains a reasonable concern that while one area of the world absorbs our attention, other forces are waiting for an opportunity to come. That is the concern which Ghost Fleet taps into: what happens twenty years from now?

In an attempt to not spoil too much, it's hard to give a plot synopsis. I will say that I approached this expecting to see the US get sucker-punched, fall behind, and find a way to catch up. SPOILER ALERT: the US does just that. I'll let you read to see how, and determine for yourself the efficiency of the authors in this work. Plot-wise, then the overall plot is predictable. There are several subplots that were less predictable, and following those trails was enjoyable.

I also found the technical details fascinating. Some are forecast-type details, dreaming up where technology might be headed. That it's both good and bad should surprise none of us. The existing technology in play was also worth reading. The efforts to make a rail gun actually work, though, might seem a bit off--in the book, the Navy shelved the project because it didn't work, but I think recent news shows it working! That's the speed of technology up against the speed of publication, though. Some pieces of technology were just thrown in, though, and did not really serve to advance the plot very much. A couple of scenes, in particular, could have just been left out, as they needed more development to explain the ideas at work.

The characters were, for the most part, decently developed. Obviously, there were a few central individuals who were better clarified than others--and a couple that I think should have been developed and utilized more. The epilogue also draws out how the world changed on a personal scale for a few of the main characters.

The primary flaw I find in Ghost Fleet is that, while the opening balanced the tactical, up-close perspective, with a strategic, global view, the conclusion left the strategic out somewhat. I would have liked a little more of that.

In all, though, this was a good weekend read, with the pacing and viewpoint shifts of the technothrillers like Red Storm Rising or Larry Bond's Cauldron that I enjoyed so much back then.

 

The Three Emperors

This was my introduction the world of Ethan Gage. I now need to buy the six previous novels to truly fill out my grasp of the hero of this story!

First, there is always the challenge of jumping into a book series without doing your background work. I did not know anything about Gage, so there were some obvious gaps in my knowledge reading this one. He refers back, at times, to events that a new reader will not understand. That's the price you pay.

Second, the historical setting works. I have read a decent amount of both non-fiction and fiction in this era, having devoured works like Forester's Hornblower series as well as just loving to read history. (I don't always remember it well, but I love to read it.) It was a time of chaos and superstition, alongside the science and open religion. Dietrich portrays this well.

Third, the plot is good. There are the competing and complementing needs to both stop the bad guys and reunite the family. These weave together nicely. As Dietrich pulls in some of the fantasy-type elements, the world does get a little bizarre, but you're reading a novel, not a history book.

Is it worth your time? I think so. But it's also expensive, because now I've got to go back and pick up all six prior Ethan Gage novels, because I'm intrigued.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Law: Deuteronomy 22

In Summary:

Can you tell from the infrequency of Through the Whole Bible Old Testament posts that having some difficulty finding new ways to deal with the book of Deuteronomy? If not, there’s my confession of the reality.

Deuteronomy 22 continues the codification of Israel’s laws. Here we see several aspects of morality addressed, ranging from farming regulations to sexual behavior. The ready intermingling of various subjects supports the view that the whole Law should be considered together, though there are clearly emphases that run along the traditional division points of civil, moral, and ceremonial. However, if God inspired the commandment not to plow with a mixed team (22:10) just a few sentences from commandments about dealing with marital issues, then we should be cautious about cutting our own divides.

Rather, I would suggest that the Law stands as a unit. Looking back through the New Testament, we see the Law treated in that manner: Jesus states that He came to “fulfill the Law” (Matthew 5:17.) Paul also treats the Law as a whole—we find no place in the Pauline Epistles that instructs that the “moral Law” is still to be obeyed but the other 2 parts can be shut down. Instead, Galatians 2 (and other places) appear to treat the Law as a completed event.

This develops the point I would hold: the Law exists for us as inspired Scripture, guiding us to understand the nature and character of God. From wherever in the Law one starts, one can arrive at either: Love the Lord your God with all your being (paraphrased from Matthew 22:37) or Love your neighbor as yourself (from Matthew 22:39).

We can find adequate guidance for life in these two statements, as well as clear need for salvation simply by comparing our lives to these. My need for salvation from the wrath of God has nothing to do with plowing with an ox and donkey together, but everything to do with not loving God fully…or not loving my neighbor.

In Focus:

Let’s throw Deuteronomy 22:12 under the focus for today. Here, the Lord commands that the people are to…put a tassel on each of the four corners of their garment. And, yes, Old Testament scholars remain uncertain exactly what this means. We do see traditional Judaism’s interpretations on a practical level, and it seems pretty straightforward.

The “Why?” factor for this rule is where the question comes. Attaching tassels like this would not have improved the garment, and in truth would have simply served to show that the observant Israelite was obeying God’s Law more than the fashions of the times.

In Practice:

From this, we drive the practical implication. The whims and winds of culture shift and change. As these changes occur, there is no definitive reason not to chase some of them—I’m all for eliminating the necktie from most of existence. Except for lawyers.

But through it all, those who are focused on honoring God above all else should be willing to embrace their appearance, from their outer garments inward, being different and reflecting the God they serve. Why? Because the God we serve has changed us from the innermost parts outward, and our appearance should reflect that.

Does that mean I have a list of do/don’t for fashion? Not really, except to say this: there were two highlighted commandments earlier, one about loving God and the other about loving your neighbor. Would a reasonable person question your devotion to those based on your clothing? This includes your T-shirt slogans…

In Nerdiness: 

Two quick nerdy light thoughts. First, take a look at 22:1-3 and 22:8. These inform the idea of taking responsibility to aid and protect your neighbor. How do we practice these today?


Second, in an example of stretching the interpretation of a passage, Ambrose (4th century) takes Deuteronomy 22:5 to teach that men and women have differing strengths and should behave and appear as men or women, rather trying to be something they are not. While that entire concept is its own discussion, I would point out that trying to make this verse carry that discussion is not a prudent approach to the text. With all due respect to Ambrose for many of the good things he wrote—but the Patristic/Early Imperial Eras of the Church struggled with what to do with the Old Testament Law as much as we do, and tended to make some big stretches.