Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Genesis 4 Part 1

Sunday's sermon was on Genesis 4:1-8, addressing lessons we can learn from Cain and Abel about lifetime worship. Here is the first installment of "Left-Out Sermon Stuff":

1. Jokes. I struggle with this because the place I want to be liked is in public speaking. One way to do this is through humor. The struggle is two-fold: the first fold is that I'm not really that funny when scripted and the other fold is that, well, I don't want humor (or the lack of it) to distract too much from the message.

So, I tend to leave out what I think are great jokes from the sermon. I hear these, read these, and come up with these in some various form. I may have gotten it elsewhere, I may have it in my head---if you wrote it I promise I'm not copying it to steal it!

Joke 1: Why didn't Cain's sacrifice please God? He simply wasn't Abel.

Joke 2: A man goes to the zoo and sees the majestic silverback gorilla. The man sees that the gorilla is reading not one but two books. The conversation then follows:

Man: What are you reading?

Gorilla: Darwin's The Origin of the Species and The Holy Bible.

M: Do you understand what you're reading?

G: Not exactly. I can't figure out: Am I my brother's keeper…..or my keeper's brother?


See why I left those out of the sermon?

Now, teaching stuff: today we'll hit one question, and it's a big one.

Where does Cain get his wife? Bound up with this is the question: Who is Cain afraid will kill him?

As a believer in a literal Adam and Eve, this is a question that needs answered for me. I think the text supports as fact that Adam and Eve are the only two people at the beginning, not that God created lots (or that lots of people developed from lots of proto-humanish monkey-like critters). There is some effort these days to examine and re-exegete the Hebrew to see if Adam and Eve were the lead of a group of created humans, and so made decisions that affected everyone. I haven't read that book yet, so I don't know.

Anyway, that leaves you with this option: Cain is afraid of his brothers and marries one of his sisters. That's your choice. Is this impossible? No. Why?

1. The Bible frequently records genealogy with this phrase "and had other sons and daughters…." Just because Cain, Abel, and Seth are the only named children of Adam and Eve does not mean they are the only ones.

2. Whilst we now view marrying one's sister as icky, that is a cultural/social development based on biological reality: marrying close kin replicates genetic weakness and increases likelihood of disease. However, much of that genetic weakness is the ongoing result of mutation and bad copying. The initial offspring would have had fewer problems to copy. Morally, marrying close kin was not forbidden in Israel for many more centuries and other cultures also allowed it under certain circumstances.

(Keep in mind: if you're in the "Western World" most of your morality is informed by a Judeo-Christian worldview, even if you've rejected the Bible as a whole. The idea even of "human rights" is based in being created in the image of God and therefore being both worthwhile and capable no matter what else there is about you.)

3. He wouldn't have had much of a choice, would he?

So, who did he marry?

His sister.

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 26 Sermons

Morning Audio link.

Evening Audio link.

Morning Sermon Outline:

Genesis 4

Cain and Abel: Baptist Brethren in Worship

1. Brought to the LORD: Worship must have a proper focus.

2. Brought together: they are sacrificing together: you see this because Cain knows Abel's sacrifice was accepted

3. Brought to reality: Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel is there with faith. The point? Abel's sacrifice is not better because of what it was but because of the heart of the sacrificer.

4. Brought to decision: Cain is not left to figure out what he should do or if he should do rather it is shown him

5. Brought to accountability: Cain returns before the Lord and is asked "Where is your brother?"

6. Brought to exposure: Like Isaiah in Isaiah 6, the presence of the Lord brings knowledge of sinfulness

7. Brought to grace: Cain is granted grace by God. He is given the opportunity to live and know God's grace

And so for us:

1. Brought to the Lord: what is our focus in worship? in church services? In our lives? Remember that worship is not just this hour and tonight, but tomorrow morning at 7:19 when your battery is dead and you can't get to work.

Moreover, if the Lord is our focus we worship as He expects, not as we desire.

2. Brought together: Still trying to live life alone? Without each other we fall apart.

3. Brought to reality: Where is your heart this morning? Is it full of the grace of God? Faith in Christ? Without faith, you're in the building but you're not in worship. It is necessary that you come believing first that He exists, but second that through Christ He accepts you.

4. Brought to decision: When we look at our own hearts, what do we do? Do we come in faith or get angry, bitter?

5. Brought to accountability: Part of worship is self-examination: how have you been toward your family this week? Your faith family? We come and find accountability both to one another and for one another.

6. Brought to exposure: while church is not always a place of beat-downs, we should also catch that glimpse, that exposure of our own sinfulness in the face of a holy God. Why? so that we can be....

7. Brought to grace: All the times we have lacked faith, been sinful, been careless God has grace for you. Not merely a grace that banishes, but grace that embraces. Grace that has paid already for your needs.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Genesis 3 Part II

Finishing up with Genesis 3, let’s look at two more major issues:

1. The nature of the punishments of mankind:

A. The punishment of woman. This takes two aspects. The first is increased pain in childbearing. There’s more to this than just labor pains. It’s actually a reference to both labor and parenting. The punishment is that bringing children into the world will bring pain. I think the presence of death and the compounding of evil brings this pain. What do mothers fear most? Losing their children.

The second is the wreckage of smooth relationships between man and woman. That’s the essence of “your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” It is reflected any time a man attempts to rule or a woman attempts to control. It’s reflected when she nags or he avoids. This is a big part of our problem.

B. The punishment of man. Pointless work is what faces humanity after Genesis 3. The ground will not do like it ought. The earth does not function as it should.

Important to consider in all this: these punishments affect both genders. Fathers fear for their children, women work fruitless jobs, and relationships between men and women are a wreck in any culture. We tend to come to this passage to find gender issues or to lay blame. It’s not here to lay. We are responsible for ourselves and our actions.

2. The protoevangelium. What’s this big word about? It’s about Genesis 3:15. In this verse, the promise is made that the snake will be crushed, though the seed of woman will be stricken. This is commonly held as Messianic, a prophecy of the coming of Jesus. By his death, he was stricken, but in his resurrection he crushed the serpent. He destroyed the power of of Satan and took the punishment for sin upon himself.

And it’s right there. Genesis 3:15 gives a preview of the rest of the Bible, of the work that God will do.

There’s plenty more here, but I’d recommend you hit a book or two. I don’t want to bore you too much :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

SBC Look-back Part 3

You might be getting bored with this look at the Southern Baptist Convention. I can’t say as I’d blame you for that. I’m hoping this will be the wrap-up.

Before I hit the last two resolutions I want to comment on, here’s the info on officer elections. These officers have no “power” or “authority” but they do have a level of influence.

The SBC Constitution and By-Laws allow for the President of the SBC to be re-elected once, and it’s traditional that if he wants that re-election, he gets it. That’s dependent on not doing something colossally stupid, of course, but Bryant Wright of course has done nothing of the sort. So, it was expected that he would be re-elected. One individual felt that we needed a different president and chose to nominate himself. Generally, that goes badly, even if you would have been a good nominee if someone else said it. He lost.

Fred Luter, a pastor in New Orleans was elected First Vice President and Eric Thomas of Virginia was elected Second Vice President. Luter’s election is noteworthy because he is the first African-American in one of these three representative roles.

Now, the last two resolutions that I want to comment on.

The first is on religious liberty. There is a move toward laws that aim to restrict speech from criticizing religious belief. These are often framed as “anti-blasphemy” laws and claim to be about keeping people from speaking meanly or hatefully against other religions, but the ultimate effect is a chilling of freedom. Freedom of speech is crucial to freedom of thought and freedom of will: if you can’t speak freely, how will others be free to choose? How can you be free if you can’t speak freely?

We do need to be careful, though, that we are willing to allow the same freedoms we demand. We want to be free to speak our minds about other religious views and philosophies and so must allow those freedoms to others. Not doing so is both hypocritical and counter-productive. God and truth need advocates and proclaimers, defenders and teachers, but not violent men or repressors.

The second resolution was a bit of a surprise. The Resolutions Committee takes submissions and usually quietly puts to sleep most of those submissions. They may repeat what we said last year, be too convoluted, or have some other reason to be declined. Certainly we don’t shy away from controversy, do we?

Well, a resolution had been submitted criticizing the update to the NIV translation of the Bible. You may not know this, but the NIV was recently updated. Much of it is the same, but the changes stirred a little trouble as they approached a “gender-neutral” viewpoint. That’s a long discussion to have another day. Parts of that approach are acceptable: when Paul writes to the “brethren” and a translator renders that as “fellow believers,” I think that’s accurate. However, God chose to reveal Himself as Father so there are places where gender-specific terms are necessary to be faithful to the text.

The committee, however, felt that it wasn’t necessary to vote on this resolution or discuss it. I don’t know what their reasoning was, but the messenger who had submitted it didn’t want to let it go. So, he moved that the SBC overrule the committee and vote on the resolution anyway. Motions like that, like motions to amend committee decisions, often go nowhere. That was not the case this time. The motion to reconsider received more than the two-thirds it needed, and so the SBC considered and then passed the resolution.

So it’s mainly noteworthy for how it passed. The content was not very different from a resolution a few years ago when the TNIV was being marketed so it’s not too far beyond our normal viewpoints.

In all, the unusual thing from resolutions this year was the attempt to amend the immigration resolution and pulling this one from the “not forwarded” list.

That’s about the whole of it from this year. We’ll see in the next year whether or not the Executive Committee’s recommendations about seeking racial and ethnic diversity on SBC Boards and in employment in administration/management roles. I hope we do a better job with that, but we’ll see. I’m just cynical enough to think those recommendations need a wait-and-see.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Genesis 3 Part 1

This past Sunday I preached Genesis 3, so I want to work through a few things not mentioned Sunday morning. The main focus of the sermon was on recognizing that God has really spoken and therefore we must obey.

Here’s the first installment on Genesis 3:

1. This passage is why we conceive of Satan as a serpent. There is nothing to indicate that the snake was truly a willing participant in the situation, but that’s just the way it goes. As to the question of why there’s even a snake in the garden in the first place? Here’s my take: God had created the angels before mankind, possibly in a time best viewed as “pre-creation.” In that time, Satan rebelled and fell. It’s also possible that this went on during the initial six days of Creation or even (and this seems pretty good to me) the fall of Satan came in the time after the first week and before Genesis 3. After all, why do we assume man immediately sinned?

So, the snake has come in because ultimately God was well aware when He created that man would need redeemed from sin, and the snake was necessary to accomplish that. The glory of God is revealed in His redemption of mankind and as such, we needed to need redeemed. Now, there’s more to this theological concept, and I know that. For now, understand that God does not create sin but neither is He surprised by it.

Meanwhile, the serpent is used to persuade Eve to eat the fruit.

2. I cannot express the amount of time I’ve seen wasted in trying to pin blame on Eve or on Adam for the fall. Really. It’s insane---it was her fault, it was his fault.

Let’s look at the text: she listened, took, and ate. He was “with her,” in the garden which is a defined space, so he’s not far away, and he eats too.

They both sinned. I have heard a sermon that tried to make it that Eve sinned and that Adam ate out of love for her, a desire to be with her. I don’t think that holds up. I think the New Testament texts that refer back to this, such as 1 Timothy 2:14, do not absolve Adam of his sin. I think the interpretation here should place this as: Eve sinned because she was deceived. The serpent conned her into thinking she would not die.

Adam sinned knowing what he was doing. He saw her not die after eating and chose to eat. Willing participants, both of them. Moreover, it’s kind of a pointless debate. Thanks to both of them, we are sinners in need of a Savior. Fortunately, thanks to God, we have a Savior in Jesus Christ.

3. Notice the punishments:

The serpent is cursed.

The ground is cursed.

Eve is punished.

Adam is punished.

There is a difference in curse and punishment. There is not really much hope to overcome a curse. It’s a long-lasting problem. A punishment, though, is meant for a different reason. It drives one to contemplate the origin of the punishment and hopefully brings one to repentance from the cause.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Southern Baptist Convention Lookback Part 2

One of the annual aspects of the Southern Baptist Convention is the report of the Resolutions Committee. This report is presented to express the opinion of the Convention on various issues. Important to remember, though, is that resolutions of the SBC have no real power. They are statements of current opinion.

Typically, there are some no-brainer resolutions. One of these is always a resolution expressing appreciation to the host city and the volunteers that made the convention meeting happen. Unless a city rioted and tried to use the National Guard to keep us out, we’d express appreciation in a resolution. Unfortunately, too many convention attendees think that resolution covers the 15% that the waitress should have gotten. That’s, however, another story.

Then there are resolutions on religious issues. This year there were a couple of those. One of them related to the recent book by Rob Bell entitled Love Wins. This book, along with a few other writings and preachers, casts doubt toward the traditional teaching on hell as eternal torment. Southern Baptists are committed to a fairly literal understanding of Scripture, such that if the Bible says there’s a hell, we’re certain this is true. The SBC passed a resolution affirming that belief and encouraging Baptists to not purchase or endorse materials, including  Love Wins.

Another resolution that dealt in the religious issues area was one calling for “civic public discourse.” This one is in response to two things: the nut that burned a Koran and the Westboro Baptist Church. The behaviors of these groups are beyond disgusting, and it’s a good thing for the SBC to take a stand against them.

My one fuss is a combined complaint about these two resolutions. I don’t disagree with either of them, but I would have liked to see us call out Westboro by name. We were willing to call out Rob Bell by name, but weren’t willing to take the hit and call Westboro what they are: unChristian, unBiblical, and just plain wrong. We stated that people that engage in those behaviors are wrong, but we should have named them. Especially since they have “Baptist” in the name and people tend to confuse that church with the SBC. It might have been newsworthy.

The next mega-issue with a resolution came with a resolution on immigration. This resolution was crafted by the committee and was not submitted---typically the committee’s report comes from resolutions written by individuals and sent in. This one was written by the committee. It went into several statements about aspects of governmental policy on immigration. There were several people who were concerned by the statements relating to providing a “path to legal status” for immigrants in this country illegally. Some were concerned this would be viewed as encouraging illegal immigration by setting up an amnesty program. Others felt that changing this resolution (or dropping it) would show that we were uncompassionate or disinterested in the welfare of immigrants.

The difficulty with this one is two-fold for me. First of all, the purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention is to coordinate the efforts of like-minded churches to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Second, Congress doesn’t really listen to us anyway.

So why did we risk alienating both immigrants and people that are concerned about illegal immigration all at once? I understand the need to express that we’re concerned about taking the Gospel beyond good ole’ boys in the South. We need to be more concerned with spreading the Gospel than we are with green cards. In fact, unless you work for Immigration or are the hiring manager of a company, it really shouldn’t cross your mind.

The only concern you should have for the ethnic background or country of origin of someone in the sphere of ministry and witness you have is if there are cultural communications barriers. If someone comes to your church and doesn’t speak English your only concern should be finding a translator to share that you love them and that Jesus loves them too.

The other concern I have is this: there are people that we as Southern Baptists could reach, and should reach, that have strong opinions about immigration. Especially negative opinions. Here’s the deal: that guy who sounds (and might be) xenophobic and anti-immigrant? He needs Jesus too. We’re leaving some of these people behind, and one of the big problems with that is that these are our family members.

This is what happens when we go past declaring the Gospel and delve into politics. It may be perfectly legitimate to call your Congressman and ask for a border fence or for amnesty for illegal immigrants. It is fine to express your political opinion, and it’s a good thing to do.

But as a collection of churches our statements should be focused on spreading the Gospel and encouraging people to live as disciples of Christ. There is nothing Gospel-oriented about a secure border or an amnesty (or a “not amnesty”) program. There is about loving all people regardless of origin or ethnicity. That should be our focus.

Ok, this has gotten long enough. Next post will talk about the resolution on the NIV2010 and on Religious Liberty.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Genesis 2 Part 2

One of the questions that often arises out of the opening of Genesis is this:

Where was the Garden of Eden?

This is not a bad question, but is unanswerable on a modern globe. Why?

We lack some key pieces of information. There are 4 rivers mentioned in Genesis 2:10-14. These are The Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. Some have looked for an area that is bordered by four rivers, given that we have a modern Tigris and a modern Euphrates River.

There are a couple of issues here. The first is that the Pishon and the Gihon have not been accurately identified with modern rivers. The Gihon is said to flow around the land of Cush, but there are several ancient areas with similar-sounding names to Cush. Likewise, the land of Havilah is not clear.

The other issue is that many people seek a place bordered by these rivers, but the text does not demand bordered. In fact, the text states that there was one river flowing out of Eden, watering the garden, then dividing into four rivers. So, these rivers are down stream.

The difficulty compounds, though, when you consider the further statements of Genesis. Once you throw in a world-wide flood in Genesis 6 it gets very hard to nail this down. When you recognize that even modern people name new places after old places, then you see why there might be many names that get repeated.

Don’t believe that we name new places after old places? Why do I live near Stuttgart, Arkansas, which is near Czech, England, not far from Palestine? We’ve done it and it will probably happen again and again.

The other thing to draw from this chapter is a refocus on the purpose of marriage and the permanence of marriage. The idea was and should remain that marriage is union of a man and a woman for life and for the purpose of fulfilling God’s calling on their lives. Marriage is a good thing when done right. We Christians would do well to remember and teach that.

BookTuesday: The Alarmists

The Alarmists
Today’s review book was provided by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this review. No cash changed hands, they just sent me a book. Here’s a link to their own info page about the book, where you can get an excerpt and some author data.
What happens when you take a military unit charged with investigating “unexplained phenomena” and add a skeptical sociologist? For that matter, where do you find a skeptical sociologist? The Alarmist by Don Hoesel is concerned with the former and not the latter of those questions. He has set the table with a group called the NIIU, a group of active-duty Army officers and specialists that investigate odd things around the world.
One thing that they’ve noticed is an increase of work lately, and so the boss, Colonel Jameson Richards, contracts with sociologist Brent Michaels to try and determine what’s going on behind the scenes. The book takes place against the backdrop of the coming 2012 hysteria and in the midst of the current destabilized world of terrorism and high-dollar economics.
Woven within the story are elements of romance between Michaels and a member of the NIIU team. The groundwork is laid for a future between the two, but it’s definitely not the focus. Also as part of the background chatter of the book are the various odd things the NIIU has investigated over recent years. Most of it is dismissed from further discussion as Michaels is told that, well, “that’s classified.”
The book does not hint that the government really does just classify such things or even try to make a case that such investigations actually exist. Hoesel has just found a good framing point for a novel.
The action here moves at a good pace, and the resolution is satisfactory. One thing with a novel like this that introduces a “new ______(hero, heroic team, whatever)” is the fear that the author is as concerned with a sequel as he is with the current work. Hoesel does not give that impression. If he never writes another novel with these characters, the reader won’t be left wondering what happened.
However, the reader will wonder what else the NIIU could get themselves into….and I’d love to read that and find out.
A word about the label of “Christian” on this book: this is not a blatantly evangelistic book, like Left Behind was. Rather it is a book that shows Christian people and non-Christian people working together to solve problems. There are discussions of faith and the value of faith, but I did not see it as over-the-top. The other product of being a “Christian” novel is a lack of profanity or sexual discussion. This book avoids those, and is no worse for it. True, it’s likely that some of these characters would use a different vocabulary, but they may not have. I grew up in a house with a military officer who talked like the ones in this book, so it’s not unrealistic. Adding sex to the character’s lives would have bogged down the plot, so that’s not a major loss either.
In all, I recommend this one. It’s not super difficult, so it would probably work for teens on up.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Genesis 2 Part 1

Sorry I didn’t get these up last week. I’m going to do the best I can to catch up with further explanations on Genesis 2 and 3 this week, so that I can get back on cycle with the sermon preached that Sunday.

Genesis 2:1-3 really concludes the narrative from Genesis 1. Something to keep in mind is that the Bible was not inspired into chapters and verses. While I would argue that the Scripture is inspired in all words, the chapter numbers and verses were added later, so don’t make a major deal about what falls in what chapter. Genesis is a whole unit, the chapters are there to help locate portions of that unit.

Back on task, Genesis 2:1-3 finishes the seven days of Creation. There are whole books dedicated to sorting through how those seven days sort out and line up with what we find throughout general revelation. General revelation? That’s what you can see in nature. It’s a complement to special revelation, which is the Word of God in Scripture.

Day Seven becomes the origin of the Sabbath tradition and rule. Scripture records that God “rested” on that day but we should not construe that to mean God was tired or needed rest. In fact, the Lord Jesus reminds us that the Father continues working (John 5:17). The purpose is found in verse 3: sanctifying the day. God set the precedent that we would dedicate a day to Him.

There are many traditions and forms that play into the idea of a Sabbath. It’s actually something I’m wanting to spend a good deal more time studying and looking into. I think we’ve got some of it out of sync. The idea is a day both of rest and worship, not obligation and duty. Somehow there’s a way in which this reflects in our culture. All day fishin’ or chasing a dollar isn’t right, but neither is a near-legalistic doldrums trip in a church building.

Another part of this I want to touch right now is in Genesis 3:5. Apparently, at this time, rain just doesn’t happen. That’s an important consideration for future consideration. One of the keys to modern science is the principle of uniformity: that the way things work now is how they have always worked. By accepting this principle, you can estimate the past by observing the present. Yet an atmosphere and climate that involves no rain but derives moisture simply from the ground is hard to simulate or observe.

The last observation for this blog post is this: there is obviously something different about the creation of humanity when compared to the creation of everything else. Genesis 1 shows everything else coming into being based on the spoken words of God. Yet Genesis 1 only states that God said “Let us make man” not that He spoke man into existence. Genesis 2 details that there is more effort put forth by the Almighty to make the living soul that is mankind. Mankind is the high point of Creation. This should be both honoring and humbling to us.

Humbling because it is our sins that have corrupted Creation. There are problems faced by the lesser parts that fall solely at our feet for creating them. Humbling because it is because of us that Jesus Christ had to die to atone for our sins.

Honoring because we can make a difference for this world. Honoring because God entrusted us with the care of this world and the right to explore and learn from His creation.

Honoring because it is in us and through us that God works in this world.

SBC Look-back part 1

I didn't actually attend the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this year, as it was in Phoenix, Arizona, and I just didn't have the time, money, or inclination to make the trip. I did watch most of the sessions via the webcast. Here’s a few observations:

1. This was the first year with no night sessions. This sounded like a good idea, but it does conflict with the logic behind moving the meeting all over the US. The moving meetings are designed to make it possible for more people to be involved from time to time. By not having anything at night, even local folks could not participate if they couldn’t get time off of work. So, there was a motion asking that future conventions restore at least one evening session.

2. This ties into something from this year that was good: every year, several times a year, both the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board hold appointment services for new missionaries serving with them. This year, both IMB and NAMB held services at the Annual Meeting. The suggestion was that the night session be restored and include at least one of the appointment services. Without getting into the ideas about merging the boards, I think we would be well served to have a joint appointment service as part of one night session that is generally a missions-celebration type meeting.

3. One part of how the SBC operates is a two-day business meeting. There are times to introduce motions that are open to any credentialed messenger. That means that, as long as your church has approved you to be there and the church is a cooperating SBC church (which is a very broad statement), anyone can propose anything. Anything. There weren’t all the crazy motions that I’ve seen the past two years, but there were a few odd ones. It is very rare that any motion actually gets voted on, though. Every motion is automatically given to the “Committee on Order of Business” to determine if it will be voted on. Most are referred to an existing board or committee: for example, if you make a motion about something Lifeway should do, it will be referred to their board. A few are out of order because they are more like “Resolutions.” We’ll talk about those later this week. Some are out of order because the rules prohibit them. For example, you can’t vote to establish a committee to do something already being done by a committee. Bureaucracy, after all, does not always need redundancy.

That was the fate of a couple of motions, but most just referred on off to committee. There always seem to be a few that are ruled out because they would usurp the authority of a board. The SBC entities, like Lifeway, the IMB, NAMB, or Guidestone Financial Resources have a Board of Trustees that are in charge of their operations. The SBC messengers can vote to sack a board member (or the whole board) or can ask the board to consider something, but you can’t tell them what to do.

Later this week we’ll take a look at the resolutions and officer elections. That’s where the real zaniness went on this year.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sermon: June 19 Genesis 3

Audio link is here

Here's the basic outline:

Has God really said?

Point one: the nature of revelation: God has spoken. This is the Word of God. He has spoken, and we need to acknowledge that fact.

This is the essence of temptation: to look at the situation and wonder if what God said applies.

We must determine that if God has spoken, we will obey---

For example:

If God has really said: "Fathers do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  (Eph 6:4)

Then what should we do? What should the focus be?

If God has really said: "If anyone's name was not written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Rev 20:15)

What should we be about as God's people? After all, has He not also said "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations?"

We must obey that which He has said.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 12 Sermon

Morning Sermon Audio Link

There’s not much in terms of outline this week. The focus was on Genesis 2. We looked at the original Creation. In that Creation mankind still needed:

Work: if work was part of original creation, then we should not expect that redemption removes the need for work. There’s always work to be done as we serve the Lord God.

Companionship: “it is not good for man to be alone.” We cannot function alone. We must have other people. This is one way in which it is mankind that is created in the image of God and not simply a man. God is self-sufficient and needs no other. We, on the other hand, are not.

Obedience: There is no time that mankind is not subject to the command of God. The interesting point is that originally, there was one command: leave this tree alone. Now, how many laws does it take to direct the affairs of men?

Evening services were consumed by Rec Camp. About 20-25 kids and the chance to share Jesus with them. Good times.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Write it out

“Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. ” (Deuteronomy 17:18, NASB95)

This verse drew my attention this morning. First of all, there's the obvious question of how America would be different if you made every elected federal official write out a copy of the Constitution (with Amendments) before they were allowed to do anything. That would shake a few up on all sides of politics. And if you made the IRS Commissioner hand-copy the Tax Code before enforcing it, it would never get enforced!

Yet modern American is neither modern Israel, restored Israel, or Biblical Israel. So, what do we make of a verse like this?

1. The first thought is still a valid one. The idea presented is that the king should not rule without knowing the foundational law of the land. In Israel's case that law was the Pentateuch (whatever you think of modern Israel, that was then, now is different). In America's case that law is the Constitution. It is reasonable that a good many elected officials may not know the finest details of every law, but they ought to know the Constitution.

2. That builds into this one: America is not ruled by Congress and the President. America is ruled by the people who invest power into Congress, the President, and the States. So guess what? We ought to know the fundamentals of our Constitution and that ought to bear on our actions in selecting people for those offices. We ought to understand things like separation of powers, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, and the rest of it.

3. Israel, though, was not only a political entity. It was also a spiritual community. The king was not the top spiritual leader in most cases, but he was still one of the spiritual leaders. A large set of problems in churches would be resolved if everyone aspiring to lead in church had to take the time to re-copy even something as short as the Sermon on the Mount. The hand-copying would cement in our minds God's Word. This would be good.

4. This wouldn't hurt to be part of what we do as church members, one and and all. If you read that verse again, you'll see the king was to copy it in the presence of the Levitical priests. That was to be certain that he took no shortcuts or made no mistakes. 1 Peter speaks of all the community of faith as a kingdom of priests, and other Scriptures point to the joint responsibility of the church as a whole to ensure the church stays on track spiritually.

Except that the most common examples of a congregation exercising control are times when just the opposite happens. Whether it's electing a megalomaniac as pastor, running off a willing servant of the Lord from being pastor, or voting to close membership to someone over race, churches tend to do things that are just blatantly anti-Scriptural. If we knew the Word, we wouldn't do a lot of these things.

Let's make sure we learn the Word. Because if we learn it, we'll do it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

More on Genesis 1 (Part 2)

Note: in an effort to be brief enough in preaching, there are parts of chapters that will be glossed over. I intend to visit those parts on the blog. These thoughts are not always fully developed, since the main effort is developing the sermon. Feel free to interact.

VI. Fruitful and multiply: it is good to have children and grow in family: guess what, folks? There is a Biblical reason to have children. If this was a command in original creation, there's not much reason to think we shouldn't consider it now. There is a responsibility to care and provide that you cannot ignore, but there is nothing ungodly about those who are able choosing to have 5, 10, however many children. It's time we stop mocking these folks. And don't give me the "overpopulation" argument, either---you look at population density in this country and that argument doesn't wash. You look at the age shift in this country and realize this: another 20 years and we'll be in a big mess. Same with countries where there is real overpopulation: China is way out of gender balance and will see a break down, India's just a mess population wise anyway.

All that is a digression: 1.8 kids may be the American average, but we should not mock a Christian family that chooses to drop the decimal point.

VII. Creation care: rule over the earth does not mean strip-mine the whole thing for gold and jewels.

This is an important one. We are responsible for the planet. In fact, there's a good point here in general: while the Biblical word is "rule" the original carries a force that invokes "care for" as well "be the boss." We have oversimplified that in English and applied the worst illustrations. Rule is not the dictatorial rule of an absolute monarch, but rather the benevolent reign of one. In the case of Creation, it's an assigned role to mankind over the rest of the created order. This means that we should be minding the things in Creation---not trashing it.

This does not mean that we should be hyper-stressed out and advocating mass population reductions (see the previous point), but rather considering our behaviors. Should we be strip-mining for gold and jewels? Not likely: we can live, and live well, without them. We should also be looking at better resource management, water management, and other sustainable modes.

However, the trees are there to be cut down and used….then plant new ones. The plants grow to feed us, so do the cows. The fossil fuels are there: use 'em, but when they're gone, they're gone. Unless the rumors that the Nazis were close to synthesizing petroleum, but I haven't found anything more than historical rumors on that.

If there are ways that provide a better world, we should do that. In fact, Christians ought to lead the way in this: this is our Father's world, and we ought to take care of it.

VIII. Stars and planets to mark the seasons: it is valuable to study these, and the progress of seasons and times is natural. This leads me to suggest that the manned exploration of space is a good thing, but I'm pretty biased. I love space and long to be the pastor of First Baptist Church, Lunar Rock. However, we can gather a great deal of 'pure science' information by study as well as the practical implications of the effort.

Beyond that, how do you look up at the heavens and not marvel? The wonder does not get any less to know there are varieties of star types nor to consider there are other planets. If our faith cannot survive the presence of galaxies, we're a little weak, aren't we?

IX. Relationship of naming to authority: God names the big stuff, man the lesser:

This connects back to other points: God named Adam, and we people answer to God. Adam named the critters, and they are there for humanity's use. It's important to collate this with the fact that God feeds the ravens and clothes the lilies, but those are there to point us back up to Him.

One of the keys of looking at Creation is that if you look down, you see plants and flowers that point you to look up. If you look up, you see stars and wonders that cause you to look deep.

And when you look deep, you see this: there's a plan and a purpose here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More on Genesis 1 (Part 1)

This past Sunday, I preached on Genesis 1. There's a slight problem with trying to preach whole Biblical chapters, though. One runs into absorption issues: "The mind can only absorb as much as the other end can endure." In that vein, there's much that got left behind in the sermon prep process. Here are the points, mostly underdeveloped, that I didn't bring up.

First of all, I didn't give most of the background on Genesis, delve into authorship and all of those details. I would love to discuss those details, but it takes a while. Generally speaking, Genesis is understood as having been written down by Moses. He possibly worked from existing sources and edited them, and it's possible a later editor dealt with his work, but in all we understand the Holy Spirit to have guided and protected that process.

Second, I didn't crash into all the proofs and debates regarding Creation, Evolution, and the spectrum of opinions between views. I hold to a young-earth creationist view. That means that I think the days are literal, the genealogies that follow are literal, and that there are other explanations for the apparent age of the universe.

Other people hold markedly different views. Many of them find Scriptural support for their views, and it's really an interesting debate and discussion. As it is a shade more complicated than "I, the preacher, say so" I felt it was better to leave that discussion out. It is possible to be a committed follower of Christ and hold to a different view of Genesis 1-2. I think you have to explain a lot with the New Testament references to Adam and Eve and to a six-day creation, but I have to find a better explanation for various scientific questions than plugging my ears and screaming "I can't hear you!"

I. The creatio ex nihilo of the universe: God made it from nothing: ok, this one did get a decent mention in the sermon, but I left out the italicized Latin term for the doctrine. Basically, it's the idea that God created from nothing. In no other situation does something come from nothing: it's scientifically demonstrated to be that way. However you slice the discussion, either God made it all out of nothing or He had building blocks. Scripture starts with God and then there's stuff.

V. Man, male and female, created in the image of God: gender identity is part of who we are. Probably more appropriately: gender differences are a part of creation. There are differences between men and women (shocker!) and those differences do not allow one part of humanity to degrade the other part. Both extremes are wrong. Moreover, I think there's a lot hinted at here related to not knowing the fullness of God without a comprehensive gender-picture. I know that God revealed Himself throughout Scripture with masculine terminology. I know that we use "He" and "Father" but I think to make our picture of God entirely male-centered misses the point. Men and women are created in the image of God and I don't think we see the whole image without both.

Appropriate Baptist caveat: one does not ever interpret one portion of Scripture to say another part  is wrong. All Scripture is correct, so there is no conflict in this and other portions speaking of gender-developed roles. That's another discussion, though. The main point is this: a man is not more valuable or more intelligent than a woman, nor vice versa.

(More tomorrow)

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 5 Sermons

AM Audio Link

PM Audio Link

Genesis 1 (AM outline)

A few brief observations:

1. In the beginning: At the start of human history, not the beginning of God's. We accept by faith that God was just, well, always there.

2. Orderly creation: This is no chaotic accident

3. State and restate: verse 1 gives the overview, the rest of the chapter expands, then chapter 2 expands details

II. The grandeur of the Word of God: what He speaks happens

What is this? Who among us carries this sort of power? That we speak and it happens? Not even the Centurion of Matthew 8 had the authority to create his own soldiers. Only to order soldiers that already existed.

We can speak over whatever we want to speak over, but it will not make it happen. We are not that amazing, we are not that powerful.

Yet dealing with a Deity of that type of power should intimidate us a bit. Well, a lot. Does it? If it does not, we have misunderstood this next point:

III. The goodness of the Work of God: what He does is good.

We need to understand this part first: if God does it, it is good. We often question whether God does things we count as bad, but need to understand this: the definition of "good" Biblically is what God does. Nothing else, no one else is good: Mark 10:18.

Only when things are done as God would do them are they good.

So, when God works, it is good. Notice the consistent repetition here: everything is good---starting with the third day. Plants, land, seas, good. Stars, sun, moon, good. Birds, fish, sea monsters (sea monsters? What would you call a whale if you never really met one up close? Willy?): good. Animals, beasts, cattle, humans----creation is complete and "very good."

God is all powerful, yet one thing He cannot do: make a mistake. All that He does is good.

That's not to say we can't ask the question when we don't understand, but simply to say that we may not ever quite get it!

IV. The graciousness of the Will of God: what He gives is grace

When God created male and female, He started showing His grace to humanity:

The ability and mandate to reproduce shows a gracious trust given to mankind.

The capacity to feed and replenish from the other created items shows gracious forethought and provision. Ever think about that? God made rice before he made people that could eat rice, yet rice is a great food for people.

The freedom above the rest of Creation.

The breath of life, the Spirit of God. Being created in the image of God, something not true of the rest of Creation. We as people are important.

We find ourselves defined as being in the image of God...

So it should follow that we live in that manner.

Creation, though, is no longer good, is it? Genesis 1 gives us a world without suffering, without problems, without collapse. There are neither tornadoes nor droughts, diseases nor violence...

We don't live in that world, because ours has been corrupted by sin. Just as one pinch of the wrong ingredient can ruin a meal, one spray of the wrong chemical can wreck a crop or a field, so the first act of disobedience corrupted the world.

That's part of the truth of being created in the image of God: our decisions have consequences....

Yet we are without the innate goodness because of that first error, the introduction of sin.

It takes someone to put us back where we belong.

And that someone is Jesus Christ who came, not as the first created man, but as the Incarnate Son of God: He was and is and will be, and He came, choosing death but not sin, choosing to be the death we all deserved.


Galatians 3 (Evening Outline)

1. Derailed from the Gospel

2. Detained by the Law

3. Devalued the work of the Cross

Saturday, June 4, 2011

How's the garden?

I was asked the other day how our gardening project was going. The answer will probably not surprise some of you…

It's a mess. Between apparently not planting some seeds deep enough and all the standing water, I have plants growing in places they ought not be growing. The week we were gone, grass and weeds sprouted, grew, and multiplied. So, I look out and see corn, grass, and various stuff.

The truth is that inexperience led to inadequate preparation and now I've got a 40 foot long, 12 foot wide plot of chaos in my yard. The corn is sprouting tassels, the watermelon, cantaloupes, and what I think are bell peppers are flowering, and I assume the carrots are forming. Except it's not well-maintained, and it's going to be hard to harvest.

Add in that any water I put on the garden is going to divide between what I want and what I don't want, I'm not fertilizing for just that same reason, and I can't quite get in there to attempt to fix any issues, and it's becoming questionable if this garden is any use.

In fact, Ann and I are debating whether or not the best course of action at this point is just to mow it down and try again next year. For now, we're letting it grow, checking its progress, and watching for snakes in it. All in all, it proves that we are really city people trying to figure out how to live in the country.

Now, the great powers that be of Baptist life would revoke my ordination if I didn't attempt to make a point with this. It's just too easy of an illustration.


1. Churches are like gardens. They are gardens in which disciples grow. It is possible for disciples to grow in the wild, but in general, disciples grow best in gardens. It takes a certain amount of clearing to prepare a garden, a certain preparation. It also takes preparation to prepare a church to grow. Here's what happens:

A. Church one starts without any preparation, any real doctrinal clarity, any real plan. Over the first several years of existence it produces as many non-fruit-bearing plants as fruit bearers. The fruit is worth the effort, but a large portion of effort goes down dead ends. Eventually, the weeds are weeded out, the soil is clear and the church grows well.

B. Church two starts with some preparation. The result is a slower start, a lot more effort, and the exclusion of somethings that might be good. Over the first several years of existence it produces fruit bearers but a constant vigilance is necessary to keep out weeds and grass and unnecessary plants.

Either way, there's a lot of work involved and the potential for failure of the plot as a whole. That doesn't mean there's no useful fruit, just that there's no fruitful future.

2. Churches are like gardens. They are gardens in which disciples grow. My garden, in theory, will produce: corn, peppers, cantaloupes, watermelon, broccoli, carrots, and squash. Oh, and garlic too. My garden grows with a diversity of crop. Churches ought to recognize themselves the same way. Churches are like gardens, not like farms. My friends are farmers. They grow rice, soybeans, and corn. The goal is produce lots of similar fruit. In fact, lots of identical fruit: the rice should all be same.

Now, that's good and profitable. But that's not an image of the church: mechanically planted, identically treated, and uniformly appearing. Churches ought to contain a wide variety of the fruit of God's people. The only uniform characteristic of what a "church" is is this: followers of Christ committed to obedience. Some people are more like carrots, some are corny, and some might just be garlic. However, the goal is to see each one grow and produce to the fullest of its ability.

If we expect churches to be farms, we're going to be sorely disappointed.

3. Churches are like gardens. They are gardens in which disciples grow. Certain types of disciples grow better in other soils. New gardens have to begin with seeds from old gardens. There's a time for transplanting, a time for seed scattering.

It can never be about making one garden biggest and greatest among all the gardens. Our goal is to plant, tend, and bear fruit---wherever we are and wherever the providence of God directs us to go.


Thursday, June 2, 2011


One thing that I've realized about myself and that I see often in our churches is that we base a lot of our decisions on pre-built categories. Somewhere in the past a framework was laid down in our thinking and now everything has to fit within that framework. It's much like our homes, where we tend to have a place for everything and do not like for items to be out of the place.

We don't really like those preferences and structures to be challenged, though, do we?

Except sometimes we need to rethink our original assumption. I had two different ideas about how to illustrate this, but I'm going with a video clip from the TV show Scrubs. Here it is:

Now, obviously, we're dealing with absurdity. One keeps pancakes in the fridge drawer, not in the cabinet drawer, but do you see the assumption? Carla expects that the apartment follows everyone else's logic: silverware goes in this drawer. Yet her husband thinks differently: his focus is the pancake. To over-analyze this: food is what matters to Turk, not the tools one uses to eat food.

Now, to application and to hopefully connect these dots:

As followers of Christ, how do we structure our lives? The world around us expects to see a certain amount of order and symmetry, and we tend to mimic what we see in the world. In some ways, that's not all bad. There is no reason to resist logical things, like driving on the same side of the road as everyone else or following a similar work schedule.

Yet there are other things that we need to question. The real food of the disciple of Christ is to do the work of God, just as the Lord Jesus Himself said in John 4:34. When we are focused on doing that work above all else, we lose our focus on the tools.

That may look strange sometimes to other people. Even other church people will question our wisdom and sense. They will think that our priorities are misplaced, that we are not keeping our lives and churches in neat and proper order.

Yet what is the focus? The obedience or meeting the appearance people expect?

It should be a focus on obedience. If that requires changing our methods, our schedules, our habits, then so be it…

The goal is the pancakes….the silverware is secondary.


PS---not saying the silverware is optional nor that it doesn't matter. Just put first things first.

Sermon Recap for July 14 2024

 Good morning! After being at Praiseworks Arkansas last week, I'm back.  Here is yesterday's sermon, where I am proud of myself for ...