Thursday, December 29, 2011

BookReview: Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament

Today’s book review book is provided by Kregel Publishers. It’s from their Academic and Professional Line. The title is Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament and it is edited by Daniel B. Wallace. Here’s the cover and Amazon link:

Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence (Text and Canon of the New Testament)

Wallace is the editor, but the book itself is a collection of six essays regarding the textual basis of the New Testament. These are contributed by Wallace and five of his former academic interns (think something more than a student but less than a one-to-one disciple). Naturally, Wallace has a high opinion of their work and is the key to their involvement in this project. They are not quite as well-known as Wallace, so his credibility is the support of this work.

What is this work about? It is, essentially, a response to the work of Bart Ehrman in Misquoting Jesus and The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. The former work is based on the latter, drawing from the scholarly evidence there to produce a more accessible wide-market book. The popularity of Dr. Ehrman’s work has caused a stir in theological academics, especially in the field of Biblical Studies.

The first effort of this book is to fairly summarize Ehrman’s position. The work then proceeds to provide evidence and opinions to counter that position. To summarize Ehrman is easy, but to do so fairly might be more of a challenge. A quick summary is this: Ehrman holds that the original text of the New Testament was intentionally corrupted into the form that is available today and that recovery of the original text is impossible.

Wallace disagrees. He holds that effective textual criticism can derive a reliable text for New Testament study. The arguments are presented here in both general form and addressing specific passages.

This book is technical in its approach and is more suited for individuals with at least a passable knowledge of Greek and some basic exposure to the work of textual criticism. While the discussions are likely understandable without that pre-existing knowledge, that information is certainly helpful.

I found the book well-toned for a response book. Often these types of books become personal and vicious in their nature, but I did not find this to be written in that manner. As to the strength of the arguments, I am predisposed to agree with Wallace in the first place, so I found the arguments sound.

The difficulty in textual criticism, though, is that you will often find what you carry into it. Ehrman carried skepticism and found a conspiracy and corruption. Wallace carried trust in the text and found evidence to support it. I carry the same trust in the text and find agreement with Wallace.

Will this book convince a skeptic? I am not certain. I do think it is of value for people like myself who have heard the rumbles of these arguments but lack a good understanding of them. Wallace and his fellow writers provide a good basis for understanding why the text of the New Testament can be trusted.

For scholarly work, a copy of this alongside Ehrman’s works would likely be a good pairing to understand both sides of the issues.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sermon Wrap-up for Christmas

Christmas Eve Service Outline:

Christmas Eve 2011

Almyra First Baptist Church

Almyra, Arkansas

Call to Worship

Silent Night, Holy Night

Performed by the Almyra Baptist Church Choir

Reading: Genesis 3:15

The Lord God said to the serpent…”I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall strike you on the head and you shall strike Him on the heel”

Congregational Singing

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus                               #176

Reading: Isaiah 9:2

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.

Congregational Singing

O Come, All Ye Faithful                                               #199

Reading: Isaiah 60:1-4

Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about and see; They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, And your daughters will be carried in the arms.

Congregational Singing

Angels, from the Realms of Glory                               #179

Reading: Luke 2:10-14

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, Good will toward men.

Congregational Singing

Joy Has Dawned                                                          #186

Reading: Matthew 2:10

“When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!”

Message: John  1:4-5

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.


The Light has existed since before the dawn of Creation.

The darkness has strived and struggled to overcome the Light but never has.

The darkness never will.

The Light broke through plainly that first Christmas in the birth of Jesus and now, His light is ever-shining in our world.

Will you see His light?

Will you allow His light to illuminate you?

Will you carry His light with you?

His Light brings salvation, and with that brings joy, peace, love, faith, and hope. Find those this Christmas and carry them throughout the year.

Congregational Singing and Lighting of the Candles

Silent Night, Holy Night                                              #206

Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas!

Christmas Day: Luke 2:1-20

Audio here or here

Luke 2:1-20

Glory to God in the Highest: Above all else, let us remember this this Christmas

Peace on Earth: It starts between you and God. Then, through Christ we can strive for peace with others. Finally, we are at peace because the stuff of this earth is not worth fighting over.

Good will toward humanity: God is showing His good will by sending Jesus!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” Revelation 4:11 (NASB95)

Christmas in 21st Century America is about many things. The retail world counts on Christmas to balance the books. The movie world waits to release award-worthy films around Christmas. The schools count on those two weeks to restore the sanity of the teachers. Many families count on Christmas to be the time they get together.

Christmas 1914 was the scene of something even greater. In the opening year of World War One, the young soldiers at the front lines of Germany, France, and England were not yet so bitter that they forgot about Christmas. Ignoring orders from superior officers, small groups of men joined together where tens of thousands had been killed, and where hundreds of thousands more will be killed, and exchanged gifts.

Why?

Christmas is about more than all the things we can list. Christmas is about even more than just peace among men. Christmas is about Jesus. It is about His coming. Christmas is a reminder that we were enemies of God and that He took the steps to bring us peace.

It starts in the ages of eternity past, when God considered Creation. The measurable time begins with that Creation, and we see the handiwork of God. We see the Divine Logic behind Creation, and then something even more amazing happens.

The Divine Logic, the Word of God, becomes flesh and dwells among humanity. Rather than having to guess at who God is or what God is like, He can be seen. He can be talked to, questioned. His answers can be examined and compared to the long-held beliefs of many.

He lives a life that perfectly fulfills the prophecies of the Messiah. This includes items He could accomplish intentionally and ones that He could only cause if He truly is God. After all, no one picks the city of their birth some seven hundred years before it happens, do they? He meets the death that He said He would.

Then He rises from the dead. Unlike the miracles He has performed, no one has to call Him forth from the grave or tell Him to get up. He just does. The stone rolls away and the people can see the tomb is empty.

A little later, He returns to Heaven to take His seat at the right hand of God. He does not go to Heaven through death like humanity will, but ascends directly there. He ruled the universe from the beginning, and rules it now from His throne.

He is Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ, King of King and Lord of Lords. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. He is worthy of worship, worthy to receive glory and honor, worthy to receive power, and capable of using it.

And He came because His love and His mercy motivated Him. To a people who had rejected Him into a world that continues to reject Him, He brought love and the payment of the penalty for sin. He is alive forevermore and will come again.

Christmas is one of 365¼ days that are His. May we celebrate Him, starting now and on into eternity.

Scripture passage for the day: Revelation 5:11-13 (NIV)

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels,

numbering thousands upon thousands,

and ten thousand times ten thousand.

They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.

In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom

and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven

and on earth and under the earth and on the sea,

and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Strange Moments

Thirteen years ago today, I woke up married. Now, I went to bed married, and was fully aware of having been married in the process, so this was not really a surprise. However, it was a change. A pretty big one, really.

I was originally going to try and list the things that had changed. I had brainstormed some of the stuff that I no longer do/have/spend and then list all the positive replacements. It's just that idea seemed a little trite and a little like I'm trying to sell you my marriage: here's all the benefits! Look! Worth the time! No regrets!

After all, there were folks who really thought marriage was going to be a passing fad for me. Side note: the people that said we wouldn't make three years? They know say we won't make the hard part: 20 years. Some of them moved the target at 3, 5, 7, and 10. Get over yourselves, ok? There were those that wondered if we would survive, if we could just live on love, all of that.

And it's tempting to say "I told you so" to those people. Except, as mentioned, they'll move the target. So, I won't bother beyond the words already expended. Instead, I will say this:

There have been strange moments in the 13 years Ann and I have been married. The first was that day, waking up in the same bed—definitely not something that was normal at the time. There was traveling and packing two people's stuff in a suitcase. Needing to consult with someone else about a job.

There was realizing that two people use dishes twice as fast. Buying two toothbrushes at a time. Just all sorts of strange things adjusting to the permanent idea of someone else in the house.

Now there's a total of five someone elses in the house. Plus three cats (make me an offer!) in the mix. The strange moments could have overwhelmed us, but you've been strong through all of it.

Through that first disappointment about Atlanta in 1999, to job changes and school issues, children and illnesses, moves. And more moves.

Some of the strange moments are certainly yet to come, but the hope that I will get to face them with you makes all the difference for me. I love you, very, very much.

And for those of you who don't know, I am married to the marvelous Ann Hibbard who is at fault for me doing such things as blogging and trying to write a book and learning to cook more than survival food and basically anything else good that I do or try.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sermon Wrap-up

We had a song-service celebration last night instead of any organized preaching, so there's no podcast of that. Related to that, I would give you a highly shortened summary of something from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together: singing together is an important part of the community of faith. Corporate singing requires dependence on and awareness of one another, and that's good training for living as believers in this world.

The morning sermon was from Matthew 1:18-24:

Matthew 1:18-24 (audio) (alternate audio)

Immanuel: God with us

We have seen: 

God as Creator: Genesis 1:1

God as Judge: Genesis 3:15

God as Savior: Genesis 6

God as Deliverer: Exodus

God as King: 1 Samuel

God as Leader: Numbers

God as Provider: Ruth

God as Sovereign Conqueror: Joshua

God as Holy: Leviticus

God as Righteous: Deuteronomy

God as Just: 2 Samuel

God as All-powerful: Kings

God as Wise: Proverbs

God as Praiseworthy: Psalms

God as Eternal: the Prophets

God in Heaven

Now, though, we see most clearly: 

God with us.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Does it matter: Calling it Christmas

One of the ever-recurring hot topics in American Christianity is the name of the day observed on December 25th. A few years ago the big angst was "Christmas or X-mas?" Now it's all the way to "Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or what?"

I want to weigh in on this, because that's what a blog is for. Well, one thing a blog is for. Another is free stuff and shameless self-promotion, but we'll hit those on other days. Today, it's using the blog to grind an axe or two.

The first thing I would say about this whole debate is that I personally believe that there are two different standards of behavior relating to Christian days of observance or holidays. That's right. This is not a purely right-or-wrong issue in front of us. There are two groups of people in this world, to present it simply, and each group has a different obligation in this case.

What are those groups? Christian believers and not Christian believers. Or, to use the typical Baptist verbiage, the saved and the lost, though that merits its own explanation.

For non-Christians, the rule is simple: December 25th is one of several holidays of various religions, political groups, and families. If "Happy Holidays" works for you the whole time, then go with it. However, please refrain from trying to redefine a term or concept: that is a Christmas tree, those are Christmas presents—you are not joining Christianity by using the traditional terms. Neither will it hurt you that someone has a visible Nativity Scene any more than it hurts me to see visible New York Yankees propaganda.

For Christians, the rule is simple, too: if you celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ on December 25th, which there's no real reason not to do so, than say so. In fact, please refrain from adorning your churches and such with mixed messages that dilute from the meaning of Christmas. Please do not put "Happy Holidays" in your church bulletin. Go ahead put Merry Christmas in there. If someone comes into church, does not know Christ, is antagonistic towards God, and is not offended until they see Merry Christmas in the bulletin, your church has some real problems. Please take next year and read the whole Bible together and try to do some of it.

The real challenge for us, my fellow believers, is this: don't mix up the two rules. Yes, I find it irritating to see "Holiday Shoppe" or whatever in the stores. Especially given the lack of attention to Thanksgiving except as the kickoff for insanity, the near-total lack of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Solstice merchandise, which means you're really just selling Christmas stuff, so call it a Christmas Shoppe. Seriously, the Druids aren't going to be more offended at the lack of Solstice Cards in the Holiday Card section than seeing it labeled "Christmas Cards" so they know not to waste their time?

But we cannot expect Wal-mart to market the Savior. Nor Lowes or Home Depot or Target. And we need to keep something else in mind in how we handle the situation: there's really only one definitely rude person in the story of Christmas. It's Herod. (No, no relation to Harrod.) The whole story reflects a grace-filled God coming into this world. He does not demand attention, but receives it anyway.

We cannot expect to reflect Him well if we are going about being obnoxious to store people about their signage. If you don't like it, don't shop there. But I assure you of this: that guy at the checkout at Target whose name tag says "New Team Member"? He did not choose the script to give you when he said "Happy Holidays." So reaming him out really only makes you and Jesus look irritable. Odds are, he already knows the boss that told him to say "Happy Holidays" is irritable. That guy's a retail manager at Christmas. He won't get any sleep until January 3 and good profits now mean he hopefully gets a bonus next year: whatever he's getting this year was decided in October.

So, please, everyone: ease off the unbelieving segment of society. Celebrate Christmas. Do so openly: put up a nativity in your yard, decorate your church, go about with a "Merry Christmas" on your lips and a giving spirit in your heart. That is the best way to keep Christmas about Christ: let every step you take be a reflection of shepherds and Magi, angels and parents, even innkeepers and taxmen.

And let's celebrate Christmas with those who want to celebrate, without trying to drag anyone to the manger. Make sure they know it's there. Make sure they know He's there. Because He is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Watch your inputs

Yesterday I went out deer hunting. Those of you who know me, know I've been deer hunting more than once or twice and that I've killed precisely zero deer. I haven't even shot at any.

Typically I hunt with a friend from college who is also one of the deacons in the church I serve. He and I have been all over his farm and a few other places, and we've seen deer at a distance, but have not seen anything we could shoot.

Yesterday I was on a different farm, but I was out by myself. Gary, the farmer, dropped me off on the edge of a soybean field, next to a corn field and by the old railroad tracks. There's an old wood deer blind out there that, honestly, just looks like an old shack on the ground. I walked over there with gun, thermos, and license and propped up and waited.

After about an hour, I saw two small deer wander into the field. They were followed about 10 minutes later by four more does. Then, out walks the biggest buck I have ever…pointed a gun at. We're not talking trophy here folks, and I know that.

Yet for the first time in my life I pointed a firearm at a living, breathing creature. I have been taught safe weapon usage my whole life: you do NOT point the barrel at living things, not even in jest. A firearm is a tool to make something dead, not a toy. I lined up the scope and watched this deer walk towards me. Every effort to be a manly-man and move past my city boy nature to join rural life cried out for me to PULL THE TRIGGER!

And I hesitated. I thought about the good-natured harassment I would get for not shooting a deer when I saw one. I thought about the meat that would not be in the freezer. I thought about walking out in the dark, listening to other hunters' shots echoing over the horizon.

Then, of all things, this came to me:

 

Yep. Daffy Duck screaming "SHOOT HIM NOW!"

The next thing I hear? The echo of the gunshot. (I was wearing hearing protection. My ears are bad enough). After hearing Daffy yell "Shoot him!" I shot him. The deer went down and basically stayed down.

Why do I tell you this?

1. To brag about the deer. What? You come here for honesty, right?

2. To make the title point: Watch your inputs.

What do I mean?

You never know when the music, videos, or words you've heard will come back to you. When will that song glorifying adultery come back? When will the violent films kick back in your head?

Will your mind draw up good images or bad? Because what you put in will, very likely, come out.

Sometimes it will help. I think about all the hours spent watching cooking shows or even the old Rescue 911 series about emergencies. There were survival shows and other types of inputs.

Of course, the input is not the final thing. After all, I've had a bad boss before. What if "shoot him now!" had come back to me then?

That's why Christians are commanded to take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We take the input that comes up and must compare it, quickly, to the word of the Lord. The Word tells us that shooting people, for example, is generally bad while shooting deer would be acceptable. The decision, then, can be made.

Further, think ahead into the activities you have ahead of you. I had previously planned to shoot a deer. I had considered the outcomes and purposes, the morality and ethics. If you think through it, you have the opportunity to plan ahead.

But you'll never draw on an input you have never put in.

So my final question to my fellow believers is this: in your 24 hours of daily input, how much of it is the Word of God?

Because that's what you'll need the most to pull out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BookTuesday: Late but short

I had a planned book review for today, but I received an email last week that there was a shipping delay, so the Big Book of American Trivia review will be a little late. Hopefully, I'll have it up next week.

Upcoming, I'll be looking at Tyndale: The Man who Gave God an English Voice by David Teems. Tyndale translated the Bible (well, headed up translating the Bible) into English before it was legal and before King James paid for a new translation. The KJV uses somewhere between 85-95% similar wording to Tyndale. He was burned at the stake for his work. Looking forward to reading more about him.

Also, I have a few reviews coming up for Kregel: Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament, The Post-Racial Church, and Reading Revelation. These all look good, and I already have them to read. Kregel uses a different system than Tyndale House and Thomas Nelson: the former schedules when they want reviews, the latter lets you review whenever you get to it.

So, no major review this week. I do have a recommendation for you. It's a book that I won in a drawing on Facebook from the History Channel. It's called Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations. It's by Evan D.G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas, authors of Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World.

I've finished their introductory chapters, and this is a good read from a historical perspective, at least at my level of history. Those of you with upper 2nds or 1sts in the discipline may disagree, but the concept seems sound. What this book does is trace how the ability to feed not only your own people but produce surplus food impacts the growth of an empire. Further, the inability to feed your people cuts your empire if you cannot conquer new food-production.

While these basics should be clear to any veteran player of the Civilization video game series, it is nice to see some explanation and contemplation on the actual facts. Further, Fraser and Rimas have gone forward with their thinking: where do our current food empires leave us headed?

One things that I found worth noting: in the introductory material, they note the rise of monasteries and monasticism. Then, they present how the monks worked the land and helped develop surplus foods and industry. They present the monks in both good and bad lights: there were good intentions derailed by corruption.

I find this positive and refreshing. Too much history writing takes a biased view towards religion, especially majority religion. It is biased against the religion at hand, and so presents anything done by that religion's practitioners as evil, or it is biased towards the religion and so presents everything with a halo added to it.

As a religious person, both methods annoy me. Not every action by Christians has been good, neither has it been all bad. History is replete with good and bad characters, hypocrites and saints, and should be told that way. True, a bias will often come out, but it is not necessary.

I think the authors have done a good job respecting the truth of the history: there's been good and bad done in the name of religion, science, and politics for centuries. We cannot learn from it if we ignore that reality.

So, grab a copy of Empires of Food. I think you'll be glad you did.

Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

(there's no reason not to take a Kindle Edition on this one: no maps/pictures that won't render. I have a hardcover, but that's up to you.)

Doug

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sermons from December 11

To subscribe to the weekly sermon podcast, click here for iTunes and here for any other feed reader.

Morning Sermon: Luke 1:26-38

Audio Link Here

Alternate Audio Here

Outline: Luke 1:26-38

I. Christmas is coming...for the first time
1. This is a surprise.
2. An expected surprise, but a surprise nonetheless
3. Often, great things come when it seems just too late.
4. Yet notice the wonder in the situation: marvel, fear, questions

II. Christmas is coming...again.
1. It's no surprise, is it?
2. We actually get kind of bored with it
3. Does that sound right?

III. Christmas is always wonderful
1. ISAIAH 9:6

2. Do not let the repetition lead to dullness

3. Celebrate

4. You do not have to light lights and prop up trees

5. Clear the gunk from your hearts and heads

 

Evening Sermon: Luke 1:5-24

Audio Link Here

Alternate Audio Link Here

Luke 1:5-24

How to be ready for Christmas:

1. Serve God as you have been commanded

2. Prayerfully ask God to work

3. Have faith that God is going to work

4. Share the good news---even if forbidden to speak

Friday, December 9, 2011

Je ne suis pas un espion

Don't worry, the rest of the post is in English!

Last night, I took a look at my Google Reader subscriptions. They were quite numerous. Google Reader is a program that allows the user to gather RSS feeds in one place to read them. Blogs, news services, and other websites that generate different content on a regular basis often use RSS feeds to distribute the content. It's also convenient for readers. You click 'subscribe' and you get a reader inbox full of new stuff. It beats checking all those websites every day.

Except I had nearly 100 subscriptions. Never mind how many actual posts were there, I had nearly 100 subscriptions. Add to this checking a couple of news sites every day for local and non-local news and there was just a huge flow of information. Then there's checking links that get posted on Facebook, Twitter, or emailed to me, and I have been living in the full-out information age.

This morning, though, it hit me. And it hit me in French, which is pretty rare these days. Je ne suis pas un espion. I don't know if it was coming back from a movie or a book. The words mean, as I recall and Google Translate verifies, "I am not a spy."

I know this reassures those of you who had your doubts. Now, let me make the first point:

While we live in the "information age" guess what? I did not need all that I was trying to process. I do enjoy reading blogs, news, and all the other stuff that trickles through. I just don't need it. Honestly, how many different controversies do you have to be aware of?

So, I trimmed it out. I eliminated 75% of the blogs I follow. I'm in the process of trimming my twitter follows (if I can sort out their new layout) and creating a list that keeps me from getting distracted by it.

What does this have to do with spying?

Well, spies are out there to gather information. Without information, trouble befalls them.

Yet I can live without it. Not all information, certainly. I am not advocating Fortress Doug not be troubled by things like "ideas" or "facts." Just that I can live without a lot of what I've spent my time on. There are things to concentrate effort on.

Even if I get blindsided because I did not see coming that some other preacher some other place did some thing or said some thing that was wrong. I may not be prepared for bumping into him in a Wal-mart in Wisconsin, but the odds are pretty rare that it will matter.

Basically, this whole rant is to point this out: be careful with information overload. More sometimes is not better. Sometimes it's just more. Really.

So, cut a few things out. Delete a few podcast subscriptions, cut your Netflix by one DVD a month (or ditch it entirely and go AMAZON PRIME)!

Less time worrying over things that you cannot affect and more time building the relationships you need to survive. That's a better thing.

Even if you are a spy. But I'm not one.

Probably.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

King of Kings, King of Me

With many apologies, I haven't been able to get a new post together. So, reprinted from Advent Reflections—The Gift Cycle I present this thought about recognizing the Christ Child as King of Me.

“For unto us, a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NRSV)

The work of God through Jesus Christ was not merely for Him to come and remind us that He is the rightful King of Creation because He did the creating. He did not come just to check up on the spiritual portion of His kingdom, nor to merely reclaim the throne in Jerusalem. His time on earth was not spent to establish supremacy over other earthly kings. In fact, the only encounters with earthly kings and governors were disastrous: Herod the Great initiated the slaughter at Bethlehem, Herod Antipas does nothing, and Pontius Pilate orders Him crucified.

His work here was not simply to reclaim those titles. He was and remains the King of Kings. He came for a specific purpose that could not be accomplished through any other means. He came for you. He came for me. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15 NIV) This is one of Paul’s “trustworthy statements” that I believe he intends for Timothy and Titus to remember, teach, and apply to themselves. It’s a trustworthy statement for me to say: Christ Jesus came to save sinners, and I am the worst sinner. If I approach life with that attitude, I will ever remember the grace shown me and be ready to extend that grace.

He came to save sinners. Yet sinners are not saved merely by His coming. One can parse down to the finest point what the precise order of God’s work in saving sinners is, but it requires His coming and our surrendering. If you are counting on Jesus merely showing up to save you, it does not happen that way. Neither does it happen that you will work your way to Him.

He came that Bethlehem night to reach you. He came that you would recognize Him as King of you. That you would come, as the Magi and the shepherds, and worship. He came for you. All of what He went through was so that you would know His glory and so that you might come to Him. There is much about the price He paid: His death substituting for ours, His resurrection proving His divinity, and His ascension to power forevermore.

But today, encapsulate it here: at the manger, the baby waits. He made the trip to save you. What will you do about it? Bring Him gold? Why? In the back of the Book, we see that He uses the valuable things of this world to walk on: the extraordinary is pavement in eternity. Do you believe that? Read Revelation 21:21. The streets are made of gold.

Because the treasure of Heaven is Jesus and the presence of God, and that treasure was paid out to redeem you. Will you surrender to His kingdom? It is not for the faint of heart: it is for the fainting heart that can go no further. It is not for the self-sufficient: it is for the insufficient one who will turn to the sufficiency of Him.

If Advent passes and you have drawn no closer to the King of Kings who is also King of You, then the season is wasted. No matter what else happens, this much is critical: let Christmas not find you another year older and not a penny richer. Let Christmas find you older, certainly, but far richer in spirit and relationship with your King than it ever has before.

Scripture Passage for the Day: Revelation 21:6 (NASB95)

“Then He said to me, “It is done.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,

the beginning and the end.

I will give to the one who thirsts

from the spring of the water of life without cost.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BookTuesday: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day Publisher: Multnomah Books

I wanted to like this book. And, to be honest, I do like this book. On the whole, it is a book written to challenge you to overcome your fears and live a bold life. As a self-help, motivational book, Mark Batterson has produced a good one.

Except that he does not claim to have just generated a self-help book. In fact, he puts forth his book as based in Scripture. He takes the title from the story of Benaiah in 2 Samuel 23:20-23. Benaiah was the captain of the bodyguard of King David of Israel. This passage is the introduction to Benaiah, who is also instrumental in establishing King Solomon's reign and whose father was Jehoiada the chief priest (1 Chronicles 27:5).

In the 2 Samuel passage, Benaiah's feat of killing a lion in a pit on a snowy day is recorded. Batterson cites the New Living Translation that renders Benaiah's action as “chasing” the lion into the pit. That's the only major translation I can find that uses “chase.” The rest use “went down.” Which is probably more faithful to the original Hebrew. That, though, poses difficulties for Batterson's entire hypothesis. His view in this book is that good, courageous Christian people chase lions, pursue the danger and overcome it.

If Benaiah only “went down,” then it's a totally different lesson. That lesson is this: do the job in front of you as best you can, no matter how terrifying.

Here is my problem: Batterson has taken a good idea and then searched Scripture for a story he considers obscure, picks the translation that supports his hypothesis, and then presents the book as normative for the Christian life. He fills the book with stories of people going out of their comfort zones and how the experiences are priceless for them. He refers, consistently, to wanting to encourage people to be lion chasers.

That is not, however, what following Jesus is about. Whether you chase the lions or just do what you have to do, following Jesus is about just that: Jesus. And following Him. By focusing on the lions or chasing exciting experiences, we miss the point. There are ten thousand ten thousands of followers of Christ throughout the centuries that have lived, died, and left no name in the history books. Yet they are the strong cord of the faith. They are the churches to whom Paul wrote, the nameless scribes who copied the Word of God, the faceless masses that circulated copies of the 95 Theses or A Practical View of Christianity, the small stations on the Underground Railroad or the hiders of Jews in Europe.

Batterson's work encourages people to face their fears, but in the long run for a book based on Biblical principles, he falls short. The Christian life long knows lions are not to be feared: slingshots kill them and angels shut their mouths. Our forbears in the early centuries knew the lions and were often executed by them, but there remained little fear, for the lion only took them to Jesus.

In all, is it worth the reading? It is. Some parts sound more like an adrenaline junkie's travel journal, but other parts have some good thoughts. But don't make it a life-changing must read.

This book was received from WaterBrook/Multnomah in exchange for the review.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sermon Wrap-up December 4

Morning Audio Link Here

Evening Audio Link Here

Subscribe Link Here

Morning Outline:

1 John 4:12

No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12

Illustrate: knowing something is real, waiting for it, expecting it. Seeing evidences but no definite things---

This is life in many ways.

From the time of Creation forward, no one saw God and knew it---

Even Moses is told in Exodus 33:20 that he cannot see God, for no man can see God and live

This is the fear of Isaiah as he stands in the Temple---My eyes have seen the King, The Lord Almighty.

Yet this is the Grace of God, the story of Christmas:

There is more than just a picture of God

There is....Jesus.

The Manifest Presence of God.

Clearly shown.

#1: Man could not go to God---his holiness, his righteousness, his greatness---but we lose Him in the cosmos, it's too hard to narrow the focus.

#2: Man desperately needs God---authority, guidance, example, grace

#3: God came to man---to provide the specific we need

#4: Now, Man, will you go to God?

 

Evening: no outline. 1 John 5

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Gift Giving Guide 2011

Every year, I try to put out a list of suggested places to consider if you would like to do some of your Christmas gift giving by donating to causes that spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ this year. So, here they are in no particular order:

1. Southern Baptist Missions: for those of you who are part of a Southern Baptist Convention affiliated church, you should consider the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Your church should have more information if you want it.

2. Wycliffe Bible Translators: these folks are dedicated to spreading the Gospel by translating the Bible into languages that do not have it. There are several times where Wycliffe has been the group responsible for transmitting an oral language into a written one, opening up educational opportunities and development in the area. That’s almost always been a good thing.

3. Connected to Wycliffe Bible Translators: my friends Aaron and Joanna Choate are missionaries for them. Wycliffe does not operate like the SBC’s International Mission Board. Well, very few missions groups do. When an IMB missionary goes out, the IMB handles coordinating their funding. Most other missionaries, including those with Wycliffe, have to find their own. If you want to support a face in missions, support the Choates through Wycliffe. You can get to know them here. Even if you don’t put money into their work, learn about them and pray for them.

4. Rivers of the World. Learn about them here.

5. Mark Lamprecht’s seminary education. Mark’s a good guy, and he’s trying to prepare for ministry. His blog is here. There’s a donate link if you’re interested.

6. Bethany Christian Services. These folks help with adoption services for children. Worth your time and support.

7. In a similar vein: there is almost no end to the needs of orphans around the world. Check out showhope.org to see ways to help.

8. If you need something to put under the tree or hand out, but want it to fund good things, try World Crafts Village. Their website explains the details, but essentially it comes back to this: there are times that the needs of people are best met by providing the opportunity for employment. People’s skills are put to gainful use, allowing them to work to improve their lives. It’s a win-win.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

BookTuesday: Shameless self-promotion

No, that is not the title of a book, although perhaps I could write one as a companion volume to my book on humility when I get around to it. Seriously, who writes a book on humility? You would have to write it, stick it on the shelf with a note that you are nowhere near qualified to publish it, and then have it published after you're dead.

Actually, I'm using my own blog to push my own effort at a book. No, it's not published by some of the great publishers that you see me review books for. Rather, it's self-published through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.

Here's the whole story: we started listening to Christmas music a little bit after Canadian Thanksgiving, so that the age-old rule of "No Christmas Music Until After Thanksgiving" could be followed. Then, in early November I was thinking about the Advent season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.

And how we always seem to have trouble finding a devotional guide to use for our church. They are either too fluffy or too intense, too wordy or too much outline. Never quite "just right." So I decided that, since my main job as a church leader is teaching, I would write one.

So I did. Now I have much greater respect for people that finish full-length books, because this short one nearly killed me. I wrote a small piece titled Advent Reflections 2011: The Gift Cycle. I intend to do this again next year, but I will most likely start sooner. Like February.

The goal is present a Bible-centered devotional for six days a week for the four weeks of Advent. It's the goal of several other books, so it seemed like a good goal for mine.

How can you get this book? Here are your options:

If you have a Kindle, I would greatly, greatly appreciate it if you would go through this link and purchase it for 99 cents. That is the lowest I could price it on Amazon. I would love for anyone who likes it (or loves it) to rate it on Amazon as well, but you don't have to. I will personally guarantee you this: if you buy it and do not think it was worth the money, email me through the address in the book and I will mail you a dollar. You'll get your money back and a penny for your thoughts.

Advent Reflections 2011: The Gift Cycle

Some of you do not have Kindles. I understand that. Some of you do not have 99 cents. I understand that, too. So, in a move destined to be panned by marketing folks the world around, here is the link to the full document in PDF format. The webhost I use gives me free storage and access up to a certain point, and if I pass that point (it's like 5 GB a month) I'll have to hope for enough Kindle sales to break even.

I do ask this: if you have kind, helpful feedback, send it to the email address in the book. I want to do this again next year, but I want to improve from this year. You can see the spots I miss.

And if you like it, whether PDF or Kindle, will you go to Amazon and review it for me? A little buzz this year might help me for next year's project.

Thank you very much for reading my blog and my little book. Have a great day!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sermon Round-up November 27 PM

Audio link here

1 John 4:7-11

I. Love?

     Looking out for another above yourself.

     Treating others as God has treated you.

II. Love shown at Christmas

     Not in presents

     In the manger

III. Love shown in Christians

     Guess who does the work now?

     God does through us.

Find someone to love, to show love to, to be the reflection of the incarnate God this year.

Make it a habit.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for…Day 5

Here's another brief list of things I'm thankful for, building on this list from earlier.

11. I'm thankful to live in farming country. We get to see the process of how rice, soybeans, and corn go from seed to field to combine to trailer. Then we eat the stuff we buy in stores.

12. I'm thankful for grocery stores. A friend and I were due to go hunt yesterday morning. It was raining. We stayed home. Guess what? Neither of us will go hungry for that, because we can buy cows. That's a good thing.

13. I'm thankful for meat processors. Well, maybe. If I shoot a deer, I'm glad that all I really have to do is haul that thing to a guy who will turn dead deer into usable meat, instead of me doing it.

14. I'm thankful for the Internet. Good job, Al Gore. Oh, wait…all of the people at DARPA, not Al. We get the opportunity to interact with people that we can't see or be with since we can connect digitally.

15. I'm thankful that, in the midst of all the chaos and commercialism, it is not only advisable to slow down and thank God for what He's blessed us with, it's possible. It's simply a matter of choosing to do so.

16. I'm thankful that our one basic Thanksgiving tradition remains unchanged: the menu can and should change every year. This year? Cheap seafood! That's right, not that fancy "fresh salmon" or "fresh shrimp." These salmon patties were caught, canned, uncanned, chopped, and refrozen last year by a mega-commercial operation. And we're going to eat them this year! The shrimp were caught and frozen who knows how long ago---but they have no skin, which is probably why they were easy to catch.

17. I'm thankful that we have endless, pointless debates to pick whatever candidate we think thinks and acts better than the other ones. After all, we could have to take to the streets to depose crackpot dictators, only to have to take to the streets to depose the people that replaced them.

18. I'm thankful that there are people who try to do what is right, even if they're undertaking a task that makes Sisyphus look successful.

19. I'm thankful that freedom is so prevalent in this country that a nut who puts on a Bigfoot costume to scare people, then takes it off to interview people about what seeing Bigfoot felt like, then posts the videos online is told to get a permit for that. And then gets angry because getting a permit violates his free speech. Take a look around a globe, dude. Free speech isn't about performance art stunts for YouTube for most people. Buy the permit.

20. I'm thankful for maps. I'm in a room with four maps on the wall, with more to come. I can learn about places I'll probably never go. But it's fun to know.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

BookTuesday: December 1941

There are some great and wonderful book reviews out there. Then there’s a few that aren’t so good.This one is hopefully better than the not so good, but, honestly, it’s a little clich├ęd. Essentially, my review of this book is this: this is a great book for those of you who like books like this but if you don’t like books like this book, you won’t like it.

Now, would you care for some details? I thought you would…

December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World
The book is December 1941 by Craig Shirley. It is an historical work, non-fiction. It runs to 544 pages of text, followed by nearly a hundred more of footnotes. That’s the place I’d like to start.
Shirley’s goal with this book is to present the state of America and the world during, surprisingly, December, 1941. The month starts with the United States not in World War II and ends with the US in it. There, I’ve given away the whole plot.

Actually, what Craig Shirley has accomplished is what most history writers are striving for. He’s taken the story that he assumes his readers know and made it interesting enough to read 544 more pages about it. His work here addresses the mindset of the people of the US and the world in those times.

A large portion of his research, based on his own words and the copious endnotes, is from the news reports of the time. It’s not just the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, but the Emporia Daily Gazette from Kansas and the Bismarck Tribune from North Dakota
.
The work moves steadily, but the reader can feel the chaos. The country was mostly expecting to get involved in the war, but the feeling was that we would decide when, probably 1942, and where, most likely Europe first. The bombing of Pearl Harbor changed that notion, and it took time to sort out how to respond.

Further, the reader can draw from this book the sense of despair in the nation. Early December reflects a country that was doing better after a decade of depression, and that perhaps expected to enter a Great War like they had a generation before: on our time, to get in it, finish it up, and get home. By December 31, there was practically no reportable good news.

Shirley, though, finds some of the good news to report. He reports how the manufacturing turned quickly to full-steam war production, how the American people began to make the greater sacrifices necessary, and how recruiting and the draft swelled the ranks. He also highlights the beginning of technology development and shifts in tactics to modern warfare.

In all, for the history buff or World War II student, this book is excellent. Does it have a broad-market appeal? Perhaps not a giant one. It does help put a fuller face on the events of the time and presents history that melds cultural, biographical, and military, which is no small task. I think it would appeal to anyone with a curiosity for the time frame.

I highly recommend it.

Edit: Forgot this link:  Craig Shirley appears on @Morning_Joe to 
discuss the book. http://t.co/Bch7O8dX

Free book received from the publishers in exchange for the review via the Booksneeze program.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sermon Wrap Up

Subscribe links:

iTunes: http://bit.ly/dhpodsub

Other Feed Software: http://bit.ly/dhitsub

Listen:

AM:  http://bit.ly/tOy2By (preferred) or http://bit.ly/u66X2l (alternate)

PM: http://bit.ly/dhg1120p (preferred) or http://bit.ly/dha1120p (alternate)

AM Outline: 1 John 3:18-24

Thankful for:

1. Assurance of Salvation: found not only in word but in our hearts

2. Assurance of truth: that we know that we can know something, that's something to know, you know?

3. Assurance of provision: that we know that we will always have what we need to do what He wants

4. Assurance of direction: that we know that He wants us to do certain things and that we ought to do them!

5. Assurance of completion: that He will finish the work and come back for us.

PM Outline: 1John 4:1-6

Don't believe everything....or everybody

1. There are deceptive spiritual forces involved.

2. There are deceptive people involved.

3. There is only one source of truth:

The Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Test what you hear: against the Word of God.

2. Test what you feel: against the Word of God.

3. Test what you plan: against the Word of God.

Thankful for…Monday Morning

No, I’m not really thankful for Monday Morning. Well, maybe I am.

You see, Sundays are big days for me. As a pastor, much of my week is about being ready for Sunday. First of all, there’s the study and preparation to preach two services. Then there’s the fact that many times, I don’t know of a problem either in church organization or church family matters until Sunday. So, being ready for Sunday takes some effort.

Honestly, though I love it. But I am thankful for Monday mornings. Not because I sit here and gloat over how great a day it was yesterday. I think it was, most of the time. I preached what I thought I should preach, did my best to answer people forthrightly and honestly, and tried to adjust plans as appropriate. There’s no undoing any mistakes or errors I may have made. I can apologize for them and then try to do better.

I’m thankful for Monday mornings because I get to do it again. I head back to the Bible for coming messages. Back to the books for learning. Back to preparing for the week’s challenge. It’s a good thing. Because Monday Morning means the slate is mostly clean.

Plus I’m thankful for this, as I always ought to be: we had church yesterday. Anybody that wanted to come, could come. The police weren’t watching for us, the army didn’t stop us. There were no major restrictions on what I could say, what I could preach, or what we sang.

And that is something to be thankful for. For those of you who didn’t go to church, guess what? You can be thankful that nobody made you go. There’s places that you can’t do that. You don’t get to choose to not participate.

Now, I think you ought to go to church. For lots of reasons. But there’s no way that I will say anybody ought to make you.

And that’s a freedom we should be thankful for.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thankful for…Day 3

There's a difficulty when it comes to writing up Thanksgiving posts. If you leave out the obvious, people wonder if you're really thankful for the basics of life or if you are assuming you're entitled to them. List them and you can seem disingenuous at best and smug at worst…

I've only rarely had problems worrying about being called smug. I don't list these to be arrogant or to say that I'm a better person than you are for these. I am a better person than I would have been without these things. So, here we go:

1. I'm thankful I was raised in a home with my two biological parents who were married the whole time.

2. I'm thankful that I grew up with a church habit that required multiple trips a week. Even if I consider whether the church I lead would be ok without a Sunday night organized service, my brain immediately starts to suggest ways to use that Sunday night for church stuff.

3. I'm thankful that I have never lacked for owning a Bible.

4. I'm thankful that I have never lacked for books. Ever. Real books, and now Kindle books, but books in general.

5. I'm thankful that, alongside that lack of lack for books, I was shown that reading was both fun and profitable. I still love to read.

6. I'm thankful for the Atari 2600 we had and the hours spent playing Missile Command with Dad.

7. I'm thankful for the Commodore 64 with its cartridges and tape deck and amazing 8-color printer. There's a lot I don't grasp in computing these days, but I don't fear the digital.

8. I'm thankful for the saxophone that I never should have gotten rid of. I never played sports. Well, except that one baseball game that landed me in surgery, I didn't play. I played sax. I was a Boy Scout. Those things were enough.

9. I'm thankful to have grown up in a home with firearms. I was raised with an awareness of the danger, the power, and the proper use of a handgun, rifle,and shotgun. I am not terrified by prospect of teaching my kids to use them, either.

10. I'm thankful for being forced to get an education. I didn't want it most days…but I'm glad I wasn't given a choice.

That's the first 10 I can think of…there are dozens more.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thankful for Part 2

What am I thankful for today?

 

That precious few of my deadlines really impact anything.

 

More tomorrow! Those few real deadlines are beating me to life today!

 

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful for Day 1

Intro: In an effort to be focused on Thanksgiving for the next week, through the annual observance of Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, I'm going to find some things to express thankfulness for. This is neither exhaustive nor prescriptive: if you're not thankful for the same things, that's fine. If you think I left something out, that's fine. If you think I'm nuts to be thankful for what I'm thankful for, that's fine. 'Nuff said.

Today's Thankful expression is this…

I'm thankful for Day 1. No, that's not a misprint in the title of the post. I'm thankful for beginnings. For the possibilities that they bring, for the hope that springs from them.

I'm thankful that, looking back, on Day 1 God demonstrated that His Words alone are necessary. As we're going through science with the kids, we're reading a book on energy. It's humorous because it's British and so words like color are spelled colour and it uses the metric system with real measurements in parenthesis.

It also points out that nearly all usable energy on this earth originated with the Sun. That big, fusiony ball of hydrogen, helium, and plasma with its big 'ole iron core, that Sun. Plants photosynthesize that energy and it becomes our food. Heat, warmth, and then the idea of solar energy—it all comes back to the sun.

Back to light. Back to day 1.

I'm thankful that at Day 1, God put into play the forces needed for human life.

And that before Day 1? God was well aware of His plan for the redemption of human life.

Because, for me, Day 1 is a beginning. For God, day 1 is just a marking point in eternity. That He is ready for it.

And for a little music to expand the thought, this video is Mark Hall talking about Casting Crowns' song Already There.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homeschooling Thoughts Post 4

Yep, we're back on this topic. I'm not trying to be a one-trick pony, but I want to get this done and go find something else to blog about.

One of the common discussions in Christian homeschooling is related to being a Christian witness in the community. If you're not a Christian, you're probably not all that concerned with the idea---and will likely be bored silly by the following. Read on, though, if you like.

The most frequent condemnation that Christians who choose to homeschool receive from other Christians is this: Since Christians are supposed to be "salt and light" in the world and tell others about Jesus, are you not abandoning the mission field of schools by holding your kids out?

Here's the first response, and it's a kind of a knee-jerk defensive one: I will take that question seriously from anyone who has left their career and gone into public education so that they, as Christian adults, are working in the mission fields of schools. Not from those who live in church offices, not from those who work in banks, and not even from those who chose teaching for the summers off. For those who have chosen to go into and chosen to remain in teaching for the purpose of spreading the Gospel.

Why? Because if you aren't doing it yourself, you really have no business telling me it's a need. That's actually one of my personal pet peeves in ministry and American Christian behavior: those folks who know exactly what everyone else should be doing. If you are so passionate for the lost kids in schools, then go yourself and don't tell me to sacrifice my children to what you won't do.

For those of you who are curious about the more well-thought responses, here are those:

Well-thought response part one: Christians are, indeed, commanded to spread the Gospel and be salt and light in the world. That command is given to Christians. None of my children at kindergarten were bound to that command. Or at first grade. Two of them are at this point, and we certainly wouldn't want any of them behaving contrary to Gospel-centered life, but there's no way my youngest is commanded to be a missionary. He's not even a Christian at this point.

Let's think a little further about this: I am a Southern Baptist, and we have a process for appointing missionaries that involves examining spiritual maturity, preparation for the challenges, and long-range support. That's what would be required for me to be a "missionary" in far away places like Little Rock as well as foreign nations. Yet a child is qualified to tackle the mandated-atheist environment of a government school simply by living in the district?

Now, this shifts and adjusts as children come to faith, become young adults, and grow in the faith. Some parents have chosen, together with their maturing teens, to enter the school system for that purpose. I do not know what choice our family will make when those days come for us, but those of you who chosen to do that, you have my respect.

Well-thought response part two: the world is more than the school room. Not being in the school room does not deny homeschool children the opportunity to be involved in Christian life and witness. There are people that Christians can seek out and interact with during any time of day. A parent can be available and can help shape the situation to protect both the child and the opportunity to be salt and light. After all, this is about honoring God and we don't want it go screwy because we let an 8-year-old do something they weren't capable of. You wouldn't do that in the kitchen or the deer woods, right?

This comes back to not being involved in Fort Homeschool that never interacts with the world.

Which is a choice that has to be made if you're homeschooling. It's very easy to lock down and never leave the house. Shut door, shop for groceries online, and keep the bad people out.  Except you can't do that. Reach out and build the opportunities.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

BookTuesday: Decision Points

Today for BookTuesday, I’ve got the autobiography of President George W. Bush, Decision Points. It’s published by Broadway Books, but I received my copy free from Waterbrook/Multnomah. Here’s the Amazon Link where you can get paperback, hardcover, or Kindle versions:

Decision Points

Right now, the only Presidential legacy more divisive in this country than President George W. Bush’s is President Barrack Obama’s legacy. If you want to stir up a fuss, wildly praise one or attack the other and then you’ll either hear rampant support from those who agree or vicious response from those who disagree.

Naturally, similar bickering has followed President Bush’s personal memoir, Decision Points. It is an autobiographical retrospect focused on the President’s eight-year term of office, though it touches on his pre-presidential years in the first 80 pages and recounts his post-White House time in a brief wrap-up.

In all, this book is about President Bush’s view of the events that occurred within his Presidency, from the Florida recount to walking out of the Oval Office on Inauguration Day for President Obama. He gives his views of the decisions he made and some of his reasons behind those decisions.

He does sound defensive at times through this book. This is hardly surprising: after attempting to be a strong leader during a crisis, he was often criticized for his decisions. The crises, though, rarely offered the opportunity to explain his decision-making rationale. Presenting that information now will naturally seem defensive. In truth, though, if I wrote a memoir of a previous ministry role or two, I would sound pretty defensive—criticism brings that out in many people.

The overall effect of this book was to make clear what many people thought during the opening years of the “War on Terror:” the US Government was at a complete loss of how to deal with it. President Bush virtually admits to feeling uncertain about what to do, but there was no one else that was prepared for the situation either. Rightly considered, prior Presidents, including his own father, had not truly faced terrorism alone and when they had, they had backed down from a confrontation. Moreover, clearly the rules were being made up as things went on: most of the “rules” had to do with international relations and very little clear about how to handle extra-national combatants.

Note that actually, the rules of war allow for non-uniformed combatants captured in civilian areas or non-combat areas to be executed simply for their presence under certain circumstances (Third Geneva Convention, Article 4) and President Bush could have simply adopted this idea and had any al-Qaeda fighter shot dead. He did not and rather had to adjust and re-adjust the rules of war and rules of engagement because the existing rules simply did not address the situation adequately.

The writing in this book is easily comprehended. President Bush does not try to bury the reader under odd lingo or jargon, and speaks straightforwardly. Many a blogger and preacher, myself included, could borrow from that habit. Some have stated that a ghost writer had to have done this: if so, then either President Bush had the wisdom to pick a good ghost or he writes well enough that his elitist critics can’t acknowledge he did it. Either way, the book’s in his name, so he’s responsible for it. (Look up Randy Richards’ dissertation on Paul’s use of an amanuensis for more info.)

This book well records President Bush’s view of how he handled the major decisions of his time in office. It provides his rationale, and it is easily accessible. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to get past the foxy hagiography or the timely demonification of him. Get the info from the horse’s mouth and make your decision about his legacy from there.

 

Disclosure: Free book in exchange for the review. Second: I no longer participate in Amazon Affiliates, so I receive no income if you click through and buy the book.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sermon Wrap-up Nov 13

First, a bonus:

I didn't preach on 1 John 2:26-27. In this section, John addresses that he has written concerning those who are trying to deceive. It's a few important points about Scripture:

1. Scripture is there to help us avoid deception. Of course, this only works if we read it.

2. Those who immerse themselves in Scripture will find that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the anointing of God in their lives, helps them understand what matters.

3. If we abide in the Word, the Word will abide in us. In this, the Holy Spirit brings us the understanding of the Word and we grow as disciples.

Now, to the sermons: (Subscribe to the auto-feed here)

Morning Sermon: Audio Link here

Text: 1 John 2:28-3:10

Theme: The Father's Love

Date: November 13, 2011 AM

Location: FBC Almyra

  1. Father's love

    1. Given but not deserved

    2. Known but not understood

    3. Purifying but not destructive (to what matters!)

  2. Practice of sin

    1. Sin is destructive (um, yeah)

      1. To us

      2. To others

      3. To the fellowship of believers

      4. To the fellowship with God

    2. The habit of in

      1. Is evidence of the absence of God

        1. We cannot stand to continue in sin if God is in us

        2. A pattern of sin results from either ignoring the Spirit and the Word or from a complete absence of them both

      2. The contrast with 1 John 1:8

        1. We cannot claim to have never sinned

        2. We cannot claim to not need washed clean by the blood of Christ

        3. We cannot, however, claim to be abiding in Christ if we continue to choose habits of sin

      3. Understand 1 John 3:9 this way:

        1. We can not sin

        2. Rather than We cannot sin

        3. For the believer, we have the ability to choose.

  3. Close out: 1 John 2:28

    1. Abide

    2. Remain

    3. Be

Evening Sermon Audio Link

Text: 1 John 3:11-18

Theme: Love

Date: 13 November 2011 PM

Location: FBC Almyra

  1. Love

    1. We are not going to get any from the world

    2. We are not going to get any from the Devil

    3. We ought to be giving to our fellow believers

    4. We ought to be giving to the world that needs to hear about God

  2. Love

    1. In deed---if there is no action there is no love

    2. In truth---if there is no truth there is no love

      1. That means we cannot lie to receive love

      2. That means we cannot ignore the truth to receive love

      3. That means we cannot ignore the truth and give love

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lost in thought

I spend no money at all to subscribe to the RSS feed at Shorpy.com. What is Shorpy? It's a website that posts various old pictures. They call themselves the 100-year-old photo blog. I love it.

I want you to click this link and look at this picture and then come back:

Shorpy.com Pic of Old Soldiers at Gettysburg Reunion

(I can't find an embed code and don't want to break their copyright to copy and paste it.)

This picture came across on Veteran's Day, 11/11/11, and it just kind of stopped me. Pictures are worth a thousand words, they say, and with this pic I think that's short a few thousand.

Here a man sits, some 50 years after a battle, and he's writing a letter. Behind him are others from that same battle. They sit, outdoors, beside the tents they are apparently staying in, in hard wooden chairs.

I wonder about this man. What else did he see from July of 1863 until 1865? Who did he lose in the war? How has peace been for him?

What does this man who likely walked to war, walked through the war, and walked home when it was done think of the cars in the streets? The electric lights?

How does he feel about the changes in society? That there are no slaves but that equality is elusive to many? That women are agitating for the vote in those years?

Does he read the news out of Europe and worry about the future?How will he feel in the next few years about the Great War?

I wonder. Apart from context, he looks like a Grandpa. One of those Grandpas that sternly tells something, but whose eyes twinkle at moments. Who tells you to not spoil dinner and then sneaks you a piece of candy.

He sits alone, but you can see he's writing a letter. To whom? I don't have graphics power enough to read his writing. Seems like it would be wrong anyway. What does he say? After 50 years, is he writing about forgiveness? Is he writing his friend whose war wounds kept him from traveling? His friend that never came back? His grandchildren? Telling them that war and hard times come, but they go, and the pain is shared by many.

If you look at the caption, you see that it's a joint reunion of the Great Army of the Republic and of the Confederate Army. Other sources show this happened, and that especially by the 1900s when this picture is taken, there was little animosity between the groups. There was simply the remembrance of shared time and misery and victory and loss.

Then, if you look closely, you'll see his badge shows him as a veteran of Virginia. How does he feel? He fought on the losing side. Yet in the end, life turned out alright. Does he note that Billy Yank isn't near as bad as he once was? Does he reflect on how the world is better without the slavery?

He looks tired but not bitter---worn but not defeated.

I wonder what his name is, what his story is—whether he knew what good had come from his life, his legacy…

I see this, though: certain things are worth fighting for (ending slavery certainly makes that list), but when the war is over, find your common ground. Rebuild your lives and share the world with all you can. God has not limited the grace He bestows upon us, and let us be certain to pass as much on to others as they need. Grace is something that you'll never run out of just by sharing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Quick hits week ending 11/12/11

Note: yes, there are very serious things in this world. No, this blog post itself will not address those things. Read real news.

1. Colons are an important part of linguistic health. Make sure yours is in the right place. For example, the tweet that said "Lessons from Hezekiah: 7 things you need to know" was a valid sentence. The one that said "Lessons from Hezekiah 7: Things you need to know" does not reflect anything Bible-related.

2. The SEC is expanding to 14 teams. At this point, our knowledge of geography is failing us because the apparent plan is to put Missouri in the "East" division. This being despite the fact that Missouri lies to the west of every SEC school except Arkansas, LSU, and Hog-fodder. Here's my suggestion: move Alabama and Auburn to the East Division. Put Vanderbilt in the West Division along with the new schools. True, West will be Arkansas or LSU for a long, long time---but that will give the East some real football.

3. Friend Anthony posted a tweet this week that stated: Whenever someone starts a sentence with "It's a fine line between…" 9 times out of 10 it's really not.

With all due deference to one who studies at the feet of the esteemed faculty of Southern Seminary, here's my responses:

A. It's a fine line between sushi and bait.

B. It's a fine line between clearing a yellow light and getting mailed a ticket by a traffic camera.

C. It's a fine line between a BIC G2 .38 and a Bic G2 .5 (ink pens.)

D. It's fine line on the thermostat between comfortable and "The preacher's out to freeze us!"

And, since it's a fine line between full humor and beating a dead horse, moving on….

4. It's nearly Christmas. Order stuff from Despair.com early to avoid optimism later.

5. I wonder about odd things at times. Like Friday when we talked about the Baptism of Jesus with the kids at lunch. My mind immediately jumped to Jesus walking on water later on. I was picturing John looking up and saying "Look, if we're going to do this, You've got to come down in the water!" That may not be a good joke, but there it is.

6. On that same discussion, my 8-year-old is apparently as clear on the Trinity as some great theologians and famous preachers: 3 persons, 1 God, no, you can't fully explain it but that doesn't make it not true. Plus, they all exist at the same time. 10-year-old thought modalism, the belief that God changed into Jesus who changed into the Spirit was funny. Kids make good theologians sometimes. We should let them.

7. It's now November and the GOP candidate race now features yet another different face at the top. Here's the facts: we start this nonsense too early and nobody knows yet who they would vote for so it's silly. Back up the primaries to April-May-June, conventions in July-August, then campaign. If a candidate has a record to run on, then there really is adequate time to look at that record. If they don't have one, then that's obvious too (plus, that's proven no bar to election). Spare us.

7a. Or, at the least, let's only do it this early if both parties are having primary challenges. Even if it's a nut, can we get a Democrat to challenge President Obama? Maybe 1 or 2 viable Democrats and an army of loonies on the side? That's 3 real candidates and then a bunch of people vying for Cabinet posts. Except the 1 nut who is going to be Ambassador to Hashima Island.

8. Book mention of the week: I read a lot, and you patiently skim the reviews I write. There's other good books or worthwhile books, so each week I'll mention 1 or 2 here. First book mention: Christian America? edited by Daryl Cornett. It provides four fundamental views on the impact of Christianity on the founding of the United States, from the full-out Christian view to the eclectic/secular view. Each view is written by one of its own proponents, and the other three contributors provide rebuttals to the method and opinion of the others. It is well worth your time and rises, on the whole, above the fighting rhetoric of many works on both sides of this issue.

But, please, read the whole book. Some will get incensed by one view and put it down and miss the value here: a generally well-rounded discussion.

That's all folks. Enjoy your Saturday, and may the Bulldogs rise to meet the Tide and the impossible happen for the Hilltoppers! Woo! PIG SOOIE!!

More importantly: Battle of the Ravine Saturday, 1 pm. Ouachita has a perfect conference record in the Great American Conference and can get on the path to a D-II National Championship with a win. They'll have to win this thing called playoffs to win it, which none of you BCS/SEC people understand for football, but that's ok. GO REAL TIGERS!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day 2011

Today is Veteran's Day. That it's both 11/11/11 in the US and 11/11/11 in Europe is entirely coincidental.

What is Veteran's Day? It started as Armistice Day celebrating the end of the War to End All Wars. Then, the next War came along. And then a few more that weren't quite so big but just as dangerous for those who fought in them and left widows and orphans and childless parents just as much.

So, what was a day to remember those who fought one war has since become a remembrance for the veterans of all the wars fought since 1775. (Lexington and Concord happened in 1775 and we mark those as the American Revolution. The country's a tad older than we claim.)

It is a good time also to think about where we are as a country. To consider what we've got and how we got it.

We live in a country with some seriously divided politics. Lots of people are more than a little concerned that the President of the United States is more than just a bad President. They're concerned that he will ultimately undermine the freedom and liberty that we've had for over two centuries.

Other people are holding long-term protests that started because of the excessive power held by the wealthy in this country. It's hard to say if that's still the focus, but that was the starting point.

Here's the rub: most of the first group? We own guns. A few own lots of guns. The second group? In many cases, like in Little Rock, the police negotiated with them to relocate their protest after a few days because of the law.

Now, there's some kooks in the first group that have planned and attempted wrong-headed things with their weaponry. And some kooks in the second that have done damage and are really just anarchists in disguise.

But in the long run, the first group is waiting until November 2012 and January 2013 to have a new President. Rather than organizing militias on the square as our Founding Fathers did, we're looking at the varied candidates and seeking to get the votes to correct what we see as the wrong direction.

The second group is, really, out for the same thing. They want the people they support, that they elected to stand for the principles that were claimed in the election. And the governments that they protest? They've negotiated, conversed, and only had isolated incidents of excessive (but still non-lethal) force. True, there have been places that the whole protest has gone crazy and government response has been more forceful, but in general: the NYPD hasn't cleared Zuccotti Park with machine guns and bayonets.

And it is because of the veterans that have fought from Lexington and Concord down through the ages, the ones who stand guard at the DMZ in Korea, the ones who seek the enemy in Afghanistan, and the ones who put the supply lines together from bases here at home. From the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc to Merrill's Marauders, to the 54th Massachusetts and to the Marines that stormed Tripoli, the Berlin Airlifters and the Navy SEALs, Minutemen and Minuteman Missile troops.

Because of these men and women, from draftees to volunteers, A1Cs to Fleet Admirals with Lance Corporals and Captains between, we get to fuss and fume in this country. We complain about the cost of running water or the stagnation in Congress or that it's too hard to be a millionaire or that the 99-week unemployment has run out.

And darn few of us go to prison for it. Mostly it takes actually doing something damaging to go to prison. Fewer still are killed for it. We actually have "Riot Police" in America that deploy with big shields and tear gas and sticks. Other countries? They put their army in the street with tanks and machine guns.

Their so-called presidents cause opposition leaders to disappear. Their peaceful gatherings are not negotiated with but gunned down.

So, from the Tea Party to the Occupy Wherevers, from the GOP to the Democrats, from the Libertarians to the Constitution Party, from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to the Theocracy Movement, let's try something today:

Set it aside. Thank a veteran. Thank a lot of veterans. Think about what they have lived and died to put in front of us all: the freedom to disagree and to guide a nation peacefully. And let's do it. We are capable of finding a way.

After all, if a group of odd-assorted riflemen in Massachusetts (who has guns in MA now?) can release freedom, if it can defended from enemies foreign and domestic, and if it's worth cheering the hope of freedom around the world, should we not be striving to make it work here?

Let's do this. Blood was spilled, lives were lived that we could. Do we dare spit on the opportunity we've been handed?

I dare not.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A lot of writing—1000 posts

I accidentally clicked on "Send to Blogger" this morning on a Google Reader post when I intended "Send to Buffer." So, I canceled that and then actually logged in to Blogger to ensure I didn't steal Michael Hyatt's post this morning. I like to post links for other people's blogs, but I certainly never want to just repost their work. After all, most of us measure whether we're making an impact by two things: comments and traffic. No comments, no traffic, that means we're wasting our time. And if I re-blog his post, I get his traffic. That's not fair to him.

Long intro to this point: I looked at my "posts" list on the Blogger dashboard, the area from whence I can control my blog, and I see that I have 999 blog posts. Two caveats: no, none of them endorse Herman Cain's tax plan; yes, one of them is a pre-scheduled book review for next week.

That, however, makes this blog post #1000 on my own blog. I've guest-posted a few times and places, but this makes 1000.

If I had paid attention, I would have made a huge deal about this, given away something (maybe not), and focused my topic about making your efforts matter and some such nonsense.

I didn't even realize it until this morning, when I'm already behind because I like to post early and I'm posting late. So, I haven't looked to see what the "most popular" post has been or "most commented" or anything else.

It does have me reflecting on this, though—for some time, my goal has been to average 500 words per post. Some are shorter, like the Monday sermon round ups. Some are longer, like yesterday's. The average may run about 500 words, though, so we'll use that.

500 * 1000= 500,000. 500,000 words. One half-million words on the blog, written and delivered. Factor out book reviews, which are probably 20% of the blog. 500,000 * .8= 400,000.

A good book runs between 80,000 and 125,000.

If I had written as diligently but piece by piece to write a book, I'd have written 3 of them. Or a book and a dissertation, and I'd be a Ph.D.

Instead, I'm a blogger. Which is not really a bad thing. I enjoy venting my thoughts out into the void. The thoughts run a little scattered, but they are what they are. I think I'm finding my rhythm in writing, but not perfectly yet.

So, to those of you who have been through the 5-plus years it's taken, thanks. I'll try to get to 2,000 a little quicker. Maybe 4 years or less. For newcomers, welcome aboard. I'm not the world's most amazing blogger (that link is here) but I try not to disappoint.

Doug

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Homeschool Part 3

It's an ongoing series with no determined ending. I dropped "Reasons" from the title because it's not always about the whys or why-nots, sometimes I want to hit methods, problems, obstacles…

Here is one of the top challenges when it comes to homeschooling your children: social skills. It's the major question asked by family members, was the subject of a 5 minute diatribe by a pediatrician who criticized us for homeschooling during a routine visit, and one of a conscientious homeschool parent's major concerns. If your kids only spend time at home, then how do they learn to relate to other people? How do they learn to get along with folks?

Well, #1: family is people, after all—and when you live with your classmates and teacher, there's no chance that you get to just ignore someone being obnoxious and escape via the Yellow Bus. You're stuck. So, the first response I have is this: if they are never out of the home, they're still learning to deal with people, because home has people in it. And, seriously, you always get along with your siblings and parents and never have to sort out differences? Really?

#2: Beyond that, the next answer is generally obvious, but as a result, gets overlooked: they are not always at home. Now, some people get too extreme and really do build Fortress Homeschool from birth to 21, and they deserve their own post for this: Yikes. You scare me. Get out more.

But most of us are not home all the time any more than a "stay-at-home parent" stays at home. Yes, there are specific times that schoolwork is done at home, but then there's: interacting with the people at the library; interacting with people at daytime church or community events; going to zoos, museums, and other educational places when these places are not so crowded you can't learn and you actually talk to experts while there.

After all, at school, what should they be doing? Listening to their teachers and doing their work, right? That 30-minute math lecture isn't introducing any social skills beyond the "sit and listen" skill, and we can replicate that at home.

#3: Ah, but the other times at school, kids learn to interact and behave like kids their age. Yes, and the ones that never grow up beyond junior high school become Congress people of both parties or perhaps hold other political offices. This is a question of goals and the best way to reach them: is the goal for my 10-year-old to act like a 10-year-old? For 1 year it is. Then it is for her to mature and act like----an 11-year-old. And so on. All with the goal of her becoming a mature, functional adult that relates to other adults.

Which is where social skill time is often spent: with adults that recognize that kids aren't quite there yet, but help them get there. Homeschoolers that aim for the best do try to get their kids out interacting with the wide array of people that are in this world. Because very few people spend their time interacting with a single maturity set, a maturity set that is just like theirs. Except the aforementioned political office holders who never grew up past junior high.

#4: This is an important aspect of this question (unlike the "learn to act your age" which is nonsense, because being 10 isn't a life skill): what about interacting with people that are not like you at all. For example, we are white, middle-class (basically, though our income runs much lower than average in that class), Baptist-type Christians. Do our kids spend any time with Latino, wealthy, Buddhists?

Um, no. Because there aren't any people in that demographic in Almyra. Of course, there aren't in the DeWitt School System feed area either. A few responses: 1: Just because you're in the same school doesn't mean you interact. I am Facebook connected to high-school classmates from different ethnic groups but we didn't hang out much in school. Most of the white kids hung out with white kids, and so on---you know why? Kids are immature and socialize with people they have commonalities with. When I got into band, I socialized with band nerds. Honestly, band nerds came from all walks of life and multiple ethnicities. Nobody cared: we were all band nerds. Skin didn't matter much. We only knew who the Jews were because they got the extra holidays, and you could see who was African-American, Latino, or white but it didn't matter for that time. It mattered other times, but not when band was our common bond. All said, being in a government school doesn't guarantee a child learns to appreciate all ethnic groups or has multi-racial friendships. It can just reinforce stereotypes and group dynamics of hatred.

Response #2: We also don't stress that no one is shoving other religious views down their throats. Oldest child is getting older and reading more diverse books. She's learning to interact with ideas and think critically about all of them. And just as I would rather a person who wanted to judge Christianity start with the Bible itself rather than many Christians, so most beliefs are best understood starting with the writings about them. We don't hang out with any Buddhists, but we've got books that introduce the belief system. Likewise, there aren't many minority families in this community, but our church is working with a minority church in a neighboring community to do things together. That helps. Our kids know (or will know) Frederick Douglass and Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant and Phyllis Wheatley. My son loves the book about the Tuskegee Airmen. They are huge fans of the work of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver---and it comes to them as no surprise that great advances in science come from women, African-Americans, Arabs, Jews, Asians----none of whom get a "month" but all of whom fit into the flow of history.

 

In all, there is effort required for our kids to fully grasp the social skills they need---but looking back on my years in school, my parents had to retrain a lot of what I learned at school anyway. So, again, why send them to learn things that they don't need and that we'll just have to redo? Seems like a silly waste of time and tax money to me.

Sermon and Service Recap for November 8

Looks like I forgot to post this! Thank you!