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.

Services Recapped for September 13

Good evening! Here are the services from Sunday, September 13: 9 AM Service: 11 AM Service: Evening Service: And the Morning Reflections are...