Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 12

Through the Whole Bible for Jan 31

Genesis 12 (Link) is today's look as we walk through the whole Bible today. I had an Old Testament professor once say that the bible is divided between Old and New Testaments in the wrong place: rather than splitting Malachi and Matthew, the Bible ought to be divided between Genesis 11 and Genesis 12. He was, certainly, prone to exaggerate and would not have cut and pasted in his Bible, but his point is well made.

This chapter marks a major shift in the narrative. Genesis 11 with the Tower of Babel is the last of the “anonymous” stories: you really have no names to attach to the mass migration or the tower of Babel. You cannot name the people that Cain is afraid of in Genesis 4 or even who married Noah, Ham, Shem, or Japheth.

Starting here, Scripture is a continual story of people. The Old Testament is the fullness of the story of one man and his descendants. The man we are introduced to in this passage: Abram. Here’s what we know: his father’s name is Terah. His wife’s name is Sarai. His nephew’s name is Lot.

And he’s from Ancient Mesopotamia.

That’s about it. Really. This man, Abram, becomes a critical part of the world’s three major monotheistic religions and we just don’t know much about him.

What do we do with that?

1.) We see that God selects people for His purposes. Abram, who becomes Abraham, is not recorded in Scripture as being holier or more righteous than any other. That’s called grace: unlike the earlier selection of Noah, there is no preliminary intro of Abram as having been righteous.

2.) We see that God works through speaking to people. In Abram’s case, we do not see the mechanism. In the modern day, we have that revelation clearly: the Word of God in the Bible.

3. We see this: if God can use Abram and pull him from the Euphrates River Valley, what can be done with you?

Seriously. What can be done with you?

The Word is there: God is calling you just as He spoke to Abram. Quit waiting and do it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 11

Have you ever listened to someone talking and thought "I have no idea what language that is?" Perhaps you've commented, alongside Casca, that "it was Greek to me" when someone spoke. Maybe whilst doing your New Testament homework :) that thought arose.

Does that make you wonder why we all speak different languages? Even those of us that speak the same language speak different languages, don't we? (My Canadian, Australian, and English friends who speak derivatives of Southern American…oh, wait, that's not right.)

It's nowhere near ideal. In fact, one of the great ideals of science fiction literature is either a universal language (Galactic Basic in Star Wars) or universal translation ability (the TARDIS in Doctor Who or the aptly named Universal Translator in Star Trek). It's not logical that sheer geographic dispersion would cause so much difference: there's not enough similarity to link the main language groups back to one mother-tongue.

The solution in science fiction comes from, of all places, the radical atheist (his term) Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The characters in this group of stories (what else does one call a five-book trilogy?) get around the galaxy understanding one another thanks to a creature in their ears that helps them understand. It's called…

A Babel Fish.

What?

A Babel Fish.

Not babble, like talking incessantly and making no sense. Nor its related term, blog, which is to type incessantly and make less sense.

Babel.

Where did he get that idea? That name?

Genesis 11. (LINK)

Really. At this point in history, which fits somewhere during the descriptions of Genesis 10, people all speak the same language. Yet they are using that ability to attempt something that is not what God has commanded. They're building a tower.

Now, that does not sound so bad, but put this backwards to grasp the principle. God had told the people that came out of the ark to spread out and fill the earth. They are trying, now, to build a tower to keep themselves from spreading out. It's a problem of obedience.

Obedience is crucial. God sees and understands more than we do and so His commands are to be obeyed. Often, we can't quite put together why we should obey something, but it's there to be obeyed nonetheless. The commands are not as arbitrary as they look. Let's tear down this one:

What do you need for a massive building project?

Unified leadership. A centralized boss. A ruler to tell you how to build.

Who is the human race supposed to look towards?

God alone as their centralized ruler.

What is the conflict?

That a human ruler will invariably:

1. Pick different goals for the people than simple obedience to God.

2. Deny people the right to obey God fully, substituting himself for the final authority.

Babel was one outbreak of human dictatorship versus the freedom to obey God. God put a stop to it by confounding human language. Now, the question I have for you is this:

What will you do to stand for the individual human freedom to respond to God?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sermon Wrap-up: January 29

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If you just want to read todays and then go on with life, here you go:

Morning Sermon: Audio Link

Nehemiah 1: Somebody, do something!

I. Historical Situation: Jerusalem lies in ruins, many of the exiles have been returned.

     A. Into exile why? National sinfulness: 2 Chronicles 36:15-17

     B. Out of exile why? God's grace 2 Chronicles 36:22-23

II. Nehemiah, though, remains in Susa, the ancient capital of the Persian Empire (Currently "Shush" in Iran)

     A. Personally separate from the suffering

     B. Yet he cannot accept that

III. Something must be done

     A. Nehemiah, though, has a good job, responsibilities

IV. Nehemiah goes first to God in prayer

V. Suffering continues

VI. We are not not unlike Nehemiah

     A. Just because we're not personally affected does not mean we should not do something

     B. We must be willing to put ourselves at risk for it

VII. When we see something that needs somebody to do something about it, that somebody is you.

Evening Sermon: Audio Link

Nehemiah 2:1-10

HAVE A PLAN!

1. The world does not want to see you sad

     Especially if you have claimed that God is your supply and strength.

     What are our words worth if our countenance does not reflect them?

2. Do not assume hostility from the world to all your purposes

     Neither can you assume that material support means they agree

     The king does not come to the One True God

3. Know what you want

     Ask God for strength

     Then follow through with it

4. Be prepared for opposition

     What you are doing does not meet with everyone's approval

     Your actions will disturb those against God's people

Friday, January 27, 2012

Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 10

Here's another chapter that derails people on their "Read through the Bible plan." It's another long list of names, but this time it's not just a genealogy. Rather, what Genesis 10 (Link) contains is the words to put on a map. The descriptions, while containing some lists of ancestors and successors, contains where the different families of the descendants of Noah moved off to after the Flood.

If this were an interactive class, I would photocopy maps and hand them out to you, and we'd label locations. I'd advise you to grab a good study Bible and look up the area.

tableofnations

The names here do not have many that need highlighting. Nimrod shows up, and his legend outside of the Bible is bigger than this text supports. He is counted as "A Mighty Hunter"  but that's not really a positive. The idea is that he went overboard with his hunting: he possibly is the father of bag limits. He's the guy with the chariot with the big buck strapped to the hood, that type of thing.

He also forms a kingdom which is found in the same region the later Babylonian Empire exists. In turn, he tends to be blamed for lots of bad things, and there's nothing really to prove he was or wasn't responsible.

Yet what can we see in the rest of this? We see, partly, the spread of humanity. If you turn it backwards, we see that humanity comes from a small group of people and spreads from there. Which is not only theoretically possible, but something that even evolutionary science supports.

In all, though, what starts happening now with the narrative of Scripture is a focusing. The story moves from 'the world this' and 'the world that' into a more personal story. Even the story of the Nation of Israel is related through individual people in most cases.

What does that matter? It matters because of this: you're an individual person. 

Because God works through individual people. Because the Kingdom of God is made up not of earthly kingdoms of men but of people like you and like me and together we are here to obey the Word of God. The idea is not that we should get one nation or another to obey God through the law but that we should challenge all people to obey God through the Spirit. In turn, the laws would reflect godliness in general.

Note: that's not to say one does not try to restrain evil through the law. That's really what good earthly law is: restraining evil. Law can never make a man good but it can stop his evil actions.

That's all for now…Genesis 11 coming up!

Doug

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 9

I know, I’m rapidly becoming the “evening edition” around here. Sorry.

Genesis 9: (LINK) Rainbows and Ruins. At least that ought to be the subheading here. The Flood ends. Noah and family come out of the Ark, animals come out of the Ark, and life starts afresh in a very different environment.

Oh, and God sees that man will be so violent that instituting the death penalty for murder is necessary and Noah gets drunk and passes out unclothed in his tent. There’s that, too.

What do we do with this?

Let’s work the opposite question first: what do we not do with this?

1: We do NOT take Genesis 9:25-27 as justifying slavery, racism, or any other ethnocentric nonsense. Seriously, I have respect for many of Baptist forbears and men and women of other branches of Christianity that went before me, but that part was dumb. I do wonder what part of mine will be counted just plain dumb by my great grandchildren, but I digress. That Canaan was cursed by Noah does not mean you get to curse someone you think is descended from Canaan.

Got that?

Good. Keep in mind, there’s really only two kinds of people in the world: those who need the Gospel and those who need the Gospel. Well, the difference is those who have responded to the Gospel and those who have not. So,you’re not better than anyone because of your skin color and you’re not worse. Your culture may be different and there may be points of difference to discuss but we’re all the same before God: sinners in need of the Savior.

2: We do NOT simply write off the rainbow portion as mythic nonsense. Of all the reasons man would invent for the rainbow, we’d make up that it’s God’s sign there won’t be a worldwide flood? For that to be the invented reason, mankind must have a common memory of a worldwide flood. So…

3. We do NOT take the provision of capital punishment as the right to take our own revenge. There’s more here than just a simple vengeance principle and it’s also not a definite command to execute murderers. I think it is a Biblically acceptable practice when guilt is exceedingly clear, but that’s another discussion. The purpose of the statement in Genesis 9:6 is to establish the value of human life: we are higher than the animals and are not to be killed just for hunting. (Hear that, Slitheen? Good.)

4. We do NOT get drunk and pass out unclothed in our homes. Or elsewhere.

Now, what DO we do?

1. Trust God: imagine the terror of storms. It’s easy, really, when you have seen tornadoes and hurricanes. Now, amplify that terror by adding some big survivor guilt. Yet the reassurance of seeing rainbows as a sign that God will preserve a remnant. When you see stress coming, trust God. Seek His Word.

2. Value human life: all human life. From the moment of conception through death, all human life is precious. That means seeking the good of all people—not just the convenient ones. So, what can we do about that? Lots, and we need to work on it.

3. Take care of the earth: we’re suppose to fill it (and we haven’t, you neo-Malthusian folks) and populate it. That means live here. Your house may be your house, but you don’t just fill it with trash and leave the heat blasting, do you? Seriously, I like the term “Creation Care” better than “Environmentalism” but many of the goals are the same: keep this place fit to live on.

And I think we should do it because God told us to, not because we’ll miss the whales and polar bears.

4. Consider the effects of our actions when we respond to sin: do we desire only to embarrass the sinner or do we seek redemption? Want to be Ham or Shem?

That’s that, then.

Doug

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 8

Note: I apologize for the delay with today’s posting. Hopefully I’ll get a few days ahead soon and be on the mornings consistently.

Moving ahead: Genesis 8. (LINK) We’re still in the Flood. Actually, we start the chapter while the water is still upon the Earth. There’s lots of water at this particular point—over the tops of the mountains. There are additional sources to discuss the physical possibilities on this one.

The application angle I want to look is this: take a look Genesis 8:13 and compare to Genesis 7:11. The flood has taken a year.

Now, consider this: the purpose of the flood was to bring judgment on sinful humanity by destroying most of the human race. This is in response to the sinfulness of humanity: it is not an arbitrary judgment or undeserved one.

How long do you think that really needed? Channeling my best Bill Cosby as he does his old Noah routine: “How long can you tread water?” It didn’t need a year to accomplish that. There are reasons one can guess for why the flood took that long to happen and then subside. The general idea is that more was at stake than just purging the first post-Edenic world. Maybe there were cities or buildings to destroy. Perhaps this was a time that saw continents formed or deformed. The answer is: we just don’t know.

Had Noah been the one to make the decision, he probably would have spent about a month in the ark, come out, and gone on with life. After all, who wants to stay locked in a boat with a bunch of animals?

We would make decisions differently. Faster, for one thing. Without the extra time surrounded by smelly critters for another. We want life to move and work at our pace.

Yet  it does not happen that way. Very rarely does anything take place as quickly as we want. Whether it’s building success or growing a garden, more time is necessary than we want.

When God is working to move us from dead sinfulness, it’s the same way. It is an instant in which our dead spiritual life is raised by the power of God in conversion. Yet we’re not instantly holy on the outside. It takes time. Continual effort, sustained patience. Time.

More than we want it to take. All the while, we have to keep going. While we wonder how long it will take—while Noah wonders when the water will go down, he keeps feeding animals, keeps shoveling out the bottom of the ark, and keeps going.

That is the key for us: keep going. Some days, all we see is the flood water.

But eventually, the water recedes and we go forward. We keep going.

God is not finished working in our lives—and we’re not done with what we’re supposed to be doing for Him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 7

The flood story continues here in Genesis 7 (LINK). This chapter addresses the story of the actual coming of the flood, including more details of the directions God gave to Noah regarding animals. We tend to remember the instruction to bring two of every kind of animal, but this chapter actually gives an expansion. It was two of every kind, and seven of the clean kinds.

There are some questions that the chapter leaves unanswered, such as exactly which animals are to be considered clean and unclean. The Mosaic law that will dictate that for the Israelites is still several centuries away, but there is apparently a known distinction even then. It is also a logical thing: if these are the animals that can be eaten and considered "acceptable" then you're going to need more of them. You're going to need them quicker, too.

The focus, though, for this chapter falls in verse 1. The Lord tells Noah to go into the Ark. This is important.

Why?

Consider this: for a hundred years, Noah and Sons have been in the ship-building business. They have, alongside doing whatever was necessary to survive, been building a ship that exceeds any thoughts of seaworthiness or control: it's going to be a big, floating box that is too big to steer, too big to move to the water, too full of animals to keep it clean…

The whole effort could have been a waste. Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth all could have decided not to bother getting in the Ark. They could have decided that building it was enough. They could have decided that they had done what God had commanded: build it. Now, they're commitment was proven and it was time to call it a day.

Yet what would that have accomplished? Not a thing. Not one single thing.

If they don't obey and get in the ark, then they die in the flood. Failing to finish their obedience would result in an overall failure.

Can you see where this is going?

What are God's commands for us? Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly before your God, perhaps? (Micah 6:8) Love God with all you have and love your neighbor as yourself? (Matthew 22:36-40) Make disciples of all nations? Not just converts and notches in the pulpit and tally marks on the attendance rolls, but disciples? (Matthew 28:18-20)

These things are not to be half-done. They are to be completed.

Not because our salvation depends upon it—God in His grace saves sinners, even ones who do not fully obey Him. Our faithfulness is at stake.

And our faithfulness reflects on the One we serve. It affects people's response. Our incomplete obedience to the Gospel drives people to distrust us and our teaching and our Master.

So, the goal ahead is this: finish. Take the last step, finish the task ahead and do all of what God has commanded you.

BookTuesday: Tyndale

Today in BookTuesday, we consider Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice. It's written by David Teems and published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. Cover and Amazon link are found below:

Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice

Tyndale is a man that deserves more credit than he has received in many parts of the English-speaking church. He was the first to set in motion a translation from the original languages of the Bible into English. His work underscores the King James Version of the Bible, the latter being somewhere between 70 and 85% similar to Tyndale's own translation.

Except Tyndale did not undertake this work in a time favorable to translating the Bible into English. Instead, he was convicted of heresy and handed over to the King of England for execution. In all, he gave his life to place the Bible into England in the language of the people.

That much should be known by English-speaking Christians. If not, now you know it. It's also available in many books. So, what value can be gained from reading David Teems' longer work?

First of all, the book helps the reader to see some of Tyndale's motivations. What drives a man to break with tradition, church, and king to do something no one else had done? Teems attempts to provide some of that information.

Second, details are obviously short in biographical dictionaries and historical summaries. Teems gives more detail on the whens and wheres of Tyndale's life.

Finally, the book delves into the background: what was happening in the broader scope of Europe and England: Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Spain, the Borgia Popes and other portions of history.

In all, I found this one enlightening. Admittedly, I expect Teems to have gotten his facts straight. As the author of another book(Majestie about King James I) in the period, he should know the period.

Teems' writing style, though, is a little different than most biographies I've read. He tries to blend in humor and offhand commentary throughout his writing. The style has varied degrees of success in this book. It is somewhat distracting, but workable.

Not a bad read. Probably not life-altering, but a sip from the world of historical biography if you're interested.

Note: Book provided by publisher in exchange for the review.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 6

Genesis 6 (Link) moves us past the genealogy and back towards the narrative. The narrative is the story, really the flow of the story, in Scripture. Now, for us Southern folks, the word "story" needs some back up. Why? Because a portion of Southern English uses the word "story" to refer to an untruth. "Telling a lie" is also called "telling a story" around many of these parts, and we all are aware of the danger of believing "hunting stories" and "fishing stories."

The Biblical story, though, is not an untrue story. It's just that the word "story" describes what's the Bible contains: a series of events, told in a mostly logical and chronological order, that contains action and other elements. The other term that gets applied is "narrative" and the two are often interchangeable and are definitely used that way around this blog.

Genesis 5 wasn't much in the way of narrative. It's a list of deaths and births with the one interruption of Enoch being 'taken away' instead of dying. The previous installment of Through the Whole Bible looked at that chapter (link), so you can see my thoughts at that link.

This chapter begins with an oft-debated section about the "Sons of God" marrying the "daughters of men." Let's not rehash this discussion: you can find my opinion here if you want it. The basic matter is this: the people on earth are turned wholly against God. That's what drives the story forward. The wickedness of mankind.

With that in view, it grieves the heart of God that He made people. The last part of His Creation, the part that moved Genesis 1 from "good" to "very good," those people. It's a terrible thing, really.

So, God decides to bring judgment on this world and all the people in it at the time. Every last one of them. Except for Noah and his family, who find grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Note: that would be YHWH, the covenant name of God. See discussion here.) Please be aware that the word "favor" and the word "grace" in English are shades of the same Hebrew word. Noah has been more righteous than his surroundings, but it is still God's grace that is bestowed on him.

This bothers us when we read it. After all, has mankind really gotten bad enough to deserve this severe of a judgment? Really? It is one of the critiques of the God of the Bible that such a thing would be done and counted as righteous: men, women, children all killed in a worldwide flood.

Why, though, does that bother us? Specifically, why would it bother someone who counts man as just another animal, one more rung on the ladder of evolution? The species became endangered and then recovered (and some folks would find that part tragic, I know). What's the big deal?

The big deal is this: we see value in human life. That's part of what many people in America are raised with, even if they are raised without a Bible or without faith in God. What makes man valuable, though?

Selfishly, we might find someone valuable because of what they can do for us. We hate to see that child die who might cure cancer or AIDS. We hate to see that life lost that might have inspired peace. But are people really only worth what they can do for others? That pragmatism can turn lethal in a hurry.

People are not valuable because of what they can do for us. They are valuable intrinsically. Valuable because of what they are. Because of what you are. You are made in the image of God.

The evil and violence of Genesis 6 is what God sees and judges. People have begun to take on the habit of killing and destroying each other. That is what God is addressing. Does it seem over harsh? It does. It may be, yet there is not much to say for it. Noah and family can only raise so much food, provide for so many mouths.

It is highly important to grasp this reality as well: GOD BRINGS JUDGMENT. Later Scripture, such as Hebrews and 2 Peter, tell us that Noah strove to tell his world about God and turn them to right, but he does not raise his hand in judgment. IT IS NOT FOR MANKIND TO BRING TOTAL JUDGMENT: it is fitting to establish systems for the administration of case-by-case justice based on law. To strike out generally is not our job-that would be for God to do or not do.

In all, this chapter challenges us to consider a few things: what ill effects does sin have? What destruction comes, even to those who we consider innocent, because of sin?

Why do we value human life?

Just a few things to think about.

Doug

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sermon Wrap-up January 22

I feel like I've been through these parts of Matthew before, but apparently I need to keep better records, because I'm not finding it. So, I hit these passages in Matthew. Next week, Nehemiah, I believe.

Subscribe to the podcast: in iTunes or in other sources.

Morning Sermon: Matthew 8:18-27

Audio Link (or alternate link)

Challenges before seeing the greatness

I. Abandonment of all that you have

What will you not surrender?

II. Abandonment by all that you have counted on

What do you rely on?

Where does your strength come from?

III. Abandonment of any hope

Are you perishing yet?

Are you really just struggling?

IV. Astonishment at the work of God

Consider what price you are willing to pay?

 

Evening sermon: Matthew 8:14-17

Not much by way of outline here, just this question: What are you doing with the healing from sin you received? Been healed? Then get busy!

Evening audio link (or alternate)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Through the whole Bible: Genesis 5

You know where you came from, right? At least, you can name a few of your ancestors. Maybe just your parents, but probably your grandparents and a few more. You might, though, wish you knew more going back. Some folks even make a living doing that type of research or running Ancestry.com to help you do it yourself.

Imagine, though, if you could run your family history back more than just hundreds of years. Consider what you would do with knowing thousands of years of history.

Many of us don't have that and so don't think it's all that important. Yet even filling in some of those gaps can provide a sense of stability. Perhaps a sense of destiny (or density, too) about your life and future fills in when you know the past.

For example, in the early years of America, there was a man named John Hibbard. he was a Major in the Kentucky Militia during the War of 1812. He was also a tavern-keeper, sheriff, commissioner, and…a preacher.

I am not named after my Great-to-the-fourth-power Grandfather, though I do share his name. What do I learn? We Hibbards are interesting bunch. Preachers, tavern-keepers and more, all at once. Farther back and farther forward, there's many a preacher/minister/pastor and many a hooligan, and oftentimes they're the same person on the family tree.

In a way, I can see where my family has come from by seeing even just the names I've found on Ancestry. They've survived wars and famines, troubles and tribulations. There have been some successes and some failures. There has not been much in the way of fame or fortune—that is left to future generations, I suppose. Yet these men and women have been part of the ebb and flow of history. For all I can tell, Anglais Hibbard's presence at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 was critical to William the Conqueror. (Yes, his name is recorded for history as "English Hibbard." Probably from helping conquer England. Or being from England when it was conquered.)

They are a portion of my heritage. There's a Hibbard that studied at Cambridge (doesn't say he graduated). And so on, so forth…The Hibbards have survived, moved forward, tamed wildernesses and urban settings. We're not famous, but we're here.

This is Genesis 5 (link) for the people of Israel. It's the record of where they've come from. It's likely got a few places where "Son/Father" is more of "Descendant/Ancestor" but that's for the Hebrew experts to teach you—the important names are there.

The events seem to be missing, but think about it: you know history separately from your genealogy too, don't you? You know whether to ask Grandpa about World War II or Vietnam because you know when he was born and when those wars were fought. You know it separately, and the one reinforces the other.

I see Genesis 5 as having the one, the family list, but the history is likely lost to the sands of oral history time.

Aside: write it down. Seriously. Record it, then transcribe it. What you did in the Depression. How your family handled the wars, the Civil Rights Era, where you were when…the stories will be lost. Also the recipes. Get someone to film you making the family secret sauce and then write it down. Keep it in a safe if necessary, but don't let it be lost!

These names, ages, years are recorded to remind the Israelites of where they have come from. They are not just a random lot of people but people with a history. People that have come after one group—and will precede another group. It helps to place the history in line with people.

Enoch is there, Genesis 5:21-24, who has a shorter life but is recorded as walking with God. I think he reminds us that what we do with the years is as important as how many years we have.

We're reminded as we look at this chapter that God works in the lives of people, not just in a void without us. He works in and through living, breathing human beings. In the midst of the living, eating, sleeping, and breathing, God is there and not to be ignored.

Will you use your years?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 4

Today in Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 4. Grab your Bibles or click through to here (or hear, if you click that speaker button) for the passage.

Genesis 4 is one of those places in Scripture where things just go from bad….to worse. In a hurry. It starts out alright: Adam and Eve come together and produce offspring. Eve recognizes that God has helped her, even calling God by His covenant name, YHWH. Let’s take that detour and then come back:

In ancient times, it was normal practice that an individual’s name was of much greater importance than it is today. I have very little fear of telling you my name is Doug Hibbard, and knowing my name does not really give you any authority in my life. Neither does it give you much insight into my character.

Not so, the ancient names. Frequently names were given to reflect character expectations. Also, names were safeguarded to a certain degree: one might have a publicly known name for general business, but then a specific name for your most important relationships and covenants.

It is not unlike people like me that are “middle-name” people. Doug is my name…but I have a different first name than that. I don’t typically use it, but I know when it comes up: taxes, government, insurance. If I hear that name, I know it’s not a personal relationship: it’s business, through and through.

Likewise, something you need to remember about the Bible is that “God” isn’t a name. It’s a noun. A fairly non-specific one, actually. Bible translators strive to use context so that they capitalize God when it’s the One True God but show it as god when it’s not. With me?

There are times, however, when the generic designation is not enough. For those times, God reveals Himself by a specific name. That name is considered holy by the original audience of Scripture, such that it was generally not pronounced or fully written out. Naturally, since the Old Testament is written in Hebrew, the name is Hebrew. The best it comes across into English is YHWH, often rendered as either Jehovah or Yahweh.

This is the name that reflects when dealing with the true God, personally, relationally. There. Detour over.

Now that we took that detour, notice that this is how Eve refers to God in this situation. She recognizes the specific and personal nature involved. This is a good recognition on her part. It should be noted that Eve recognizes this—whatever fault you want to lay on her from Genesis 3, she is the one who first calls God by name.

Of course, things don’t stay that positive. Adam and Eve have two children named at this point: Cain and Abel. These two go into separate career fields. One to farming, one to herding. Both bring offerings to God from their work, but Abel’s is accepted while Cain’s is not. The text does not give us an exact basis for understanding how Cain and Abel knew this to be the case, only that they knew it.

This gives us something to consider: very often we are aware when what we do displeases God. Occasionally we may need external evidence of it, but we know when God is displeased with us.

Now, there’s two options left to us when that happens. We can either find a way to make right our behavior toward God or we can lash out at those who are accepted by Him. Cain chooses one.

The wrong one. Abel is murdered. We’re given a classic question that is an indictment of all of us when we neglect those around us: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is: Yes, you are. We all are.

We are to be mindful of the well-being of those around us. Every last one. The victims of human trafficking in London and Lonoke. The poor kids on the streets of Little Rock or the villages of Laos. The sick and afflicted here, there, and everywhere.

That’s the message of Genesis 4: you are your brother’s keeper. Not because there is no God but because there is one. Because that one holds your brother important and has put his life in your hands.

The chapter finishes with contrasting endpoints: Adam and Eve have a new son, Seth, to carry on their line. Also, the line of Cain leads to a man who boasts of his revenge for insults. Lamech expresses disdain at keeping his brother and rather prefers to put his brother under threat.

Who are we?

Lamech?

Or those who will keep our brothers?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Through the whole Bible: Genesis 3

Continuing Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 3. If you’d like the page link, here it is: NIV/NASB Parallel at BibleGateway.com.

Here’s where the trouble begins: Genesis 3. If the Bible were just Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22, everything would be great.

Except we don’t get to shortcut the narrative. Genesis 3 happens. A few quick suggestions:

1. Freedom to choose good requires the availability of freedom to choose evil. That’s why there’s two trees there. If Adam and Eve only choose to obey because disobedience is not an option, what does it mean? Next to nothing.

For example, I got through high school without trying cocaine. That’s not a brag: I was never offered the opportunity. I have no idea if I would have heeded “Just Say No!” or not. Given some of the areas where I lacked self-control, I can’t be certain—so, while I will teach my children to say no to such things as well, it’s not really a point of pride that I never did. It’s a point of gratitude, for certain…

2. It’s the only talking snake in the Bible. There’s a talking donkey later, but there’s only two talking animals that I can think of at all, and this is one of them. The talking donkey tells the truth, the snake is a deceiver. I don’t know that there’s a deep meaning to be extracted here, but it’s there.

I will make this observation here, because I think it matters in the big picture: keep in mind that 1st-2nd Millennium BC Hebrew animal taxonomy is not the same as modern Western methods. “Snake,” “fish,” even “cattle” may not exactly translate what is discussed here---this is definitely some form of reptile, and there’s no reason it’s probably not a snake. That’s just something to keep in mind: some folks criticize the Bible for calling bats “birds” when we class them as “mammals that fly.” Let’s see here: bats fly, have wings, and eat bugs---there’s a lot of similarity with birds, folks, and just because our science divides based on the fur and live births, does that really go backwards?

Is it the snake that talks or Satan that possesses the snake and he talks? It’s not abundantly clear. It’s clear that the punishment on the snake parallels the long-term punishment of Satan.

And yes, this is the explanation why people are afraid of snakes and like to kill them.

3. The blame starts here, but the buck should stop here, too.

We like to pass the blame, and we even do it retroactively back onto this story. The jokes that put the whole fault on Eve are woefully overtold and tired. All in all, the fault lies on the two who ate the fruit. They sinned. Each for their own reasons, but both used their freedom for sin.

Sin as a habit passed on to the rest of us. Yet we cannot blame Adam and Eve for our sins, either. When faced with choices, we are responsible for what we choose.

Now, some folks want to blame Eve over Adam or Adam over Eve. The blame in the chapter hits them both, equally. Why?

Prior to this whole fruit-thing (not explicitly an apple), there were no gaps in the relationship between these two. We tend to highlight the clear purity of the relationship of people with God before this, but it is also true that they have a clear, pure relationship with each other. They are co-bearers of the image of God.

And they both fail to uphold that image. They break it. Together, because that’s what they were. There was no reason for Eve to doubt that Adam supported her tasting or for Adam to doubt Eve’s offer of the fruit. They had a perfect relationship.

Which they then destroyed. They hid, not only from God (which failed), but also from each other. Shame comes in, distrust, blame, bitterness all show up to plague us for generations to come.

So, what do we do?

Strive to trust. As President Reagan said, “Trust but verify.” (Or, as I have seen, “In God we Trust. All others pay cash.”) Start with it at home: see the better possibility. Choose to assume the best about others. Will you be let down? Uh, yes.

Yet what other option do you have? Fortify in your castle and let no one in? That doesn’t work. You have to try. We have to try.

Let’s do what we can. Be trustworthy and treat others the same way. It will hurt sometimes, but we have to start somewhere.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Through The Whole Bible: Genesis 2

Continuing through the whole Bible: Genesis 2. If you need a link for the passage, here it is with both NIV and NASB from BibleGateway. Or, if you’ve got a Bible, you can look it up. It’s on page 2 in mine :)

This is the conclusion of the Creation account. A quick note, though, about the Bible in general is due: the original texts were not divided into chapters and verses. Those are later additions. It is a portion of Biblical Studies to try and understand the original divisions that might have been there, but just file this in your mind: the train of thought can run past chapter/verse markings. Originally, you had the “Book” divisions: Genesis ends the same place, Exodus starts, but the chapters are not original to the text.

And don’t get me started on the “headers” added by many English translations: those little summaries cause people to miss the point as often as they help to find it.

Now, back to the text: first off, 2:1 addresses that Creation was completed. A few things that means and doesn’t mean:

  1. Does not mean: no slightly new animals. Consider intentional selective breeding. This happens. Yet dogs are still dogs, except for schnauzers and poodles, which aren’t.
  2. Does not mean: no extinctions. Seriously, plants and animals have been dying out since Eden.
  3. Does mean: the fundamental stuff of the universe remains pretty much unchanged. Sound fishy? Remember the Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy from Chemistry? The one where physicists agree that the universe, while expanding, is still static in the totality of mass and energy?
  4. Does not mean: we know all there is to know.
  5. Does mean: it was done. God left nothing necessary out of Creation.

The chapter then provides some measure of detail about the specific creation of man and woman. There are some good summaries and theologies that address this, so I will mention one specific idea: man is incomplete without woman. I think it also applies the other direction. In general, I see this here: humanity is not complete in a single-gender dominated situation. Various cultures see differing roles for men and women and that’s worth discussing, but no culture has a good future if it oppresses one gender or the other. Neither, I think, do you have a good future if there is no distinction between men and women---not the hard and fast “that’s a girl job!” type of distinction, but simply one where there’s a difference.

Before we get to the creation of man and woman, though, we have the Garden of Eden. Paradise. Flowing rivers, fruitful trees, peaceful critters. A nice place to live. Too bad, though, it’s gone now. (look ahead at Genesis 6, the Flood did some serious damage)

There are many efforts to 'locate’ the Garden of Eden. I’m fairly certain that it’s not going to be found physically on this Earth. For the Christian, I’d point you to Revelation 21 and Revelation 22 and compare the images there back to Genesis 2. Eternity sees that restoration. It would historically interesting, but to what end? Someone would claim we were only seeing what we wanted to see.

I would note this, though: general world history has long supported the idea that civilization thrived among humanity around four river valleys. Those were: The Nile, the Tigris-Euphrates, the Indus, and the Yellow (Huang He) in China. Four rivers watered the Garden of Eden. Four rivers were the cradles of civilization. That might be a stretch, but it might also not be a coincidence.

The final point in this chapter is God’s first unfulfilled words. Throughout Genesis 1, when God speaks, it happens. However you line that chapter up with the calendar, the Christian view holds that God speaks and it happens. All of Creation obeys Him.

Yet God speaks to Adam and we’re left hanging: Is Adam going to obey?

Here we see something important: man is created with a free will. The ability to obey or to disobey, to continue in life or to bring destruction.

At the time, there’s no “experience of human nature” for Adam and Eve to think through. The cows and pigs and chickens are not looking at this and thinking “Well, that was nice, but they’re going to eat the fruit.” They are free to maintain life. God has given them that ability.

But they also have the freedom to choose their future on this earth. I take this as part of the image of God they are created in.

And I think we still have a measure of this. There are, certainly, woven into this universe, laws of existence. Some are physical, some emotional, moral, mental, and spiritual. We don’t live in the Matrix: bullets fired follow physics and do damage, whatever our minds wish to have happen. Sin has consequences for us and others.

Yet we still have options. How much damage will we do? How much good?

That’s the challenge for me: fate is not nearly as strong as force as our decisions. Some things cannot be overcome, but many can. And too often, we sit at the mercy of things that ought to be at our mercy. You may be dealing with many negative things, but are you also letting things you can control hold you down? You didn’t choose your parents, but you choose your attitude. You didn’t choose part a, but can you make decisions about part b?

Do so. Let us all do so, and choose to do what we can to make this life more like it ought to be.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Through the whole Bible: Genesis 1

Today, let's take a look at Genesis 1. If you click the link there, it will draw up the whole text (or it should, if the old RefTagger code still works). Otherwise, grab your Bible or click here for the text in both the NIV and NASB.

Genesis 1:1 is likely among the five most famous Bible verses, It's also among the five most strife-causing verses in the Bible. Why?

It's the foundation for everything else to come. Really. Whether you're a day-ager, frameworker, literalist, or atheistic evolutionist, guess what? You have formed an opinion on Genesis 1:1. For the atheist, it's a complete falsehood. For the theist, it's critical in terms of timing and causation.

It's actually the one thing that is agreed among many differing views on the rest of Genesis 1: God did it.

If it's true that God created the heavens and the earth, then there are certain implications for that creation. The Creator will have done so for a reason. He will have done so with certain purposes and structures that continue that affect all of it.

Of course, if God didn't create it, then there are all sorts of questions regarding whether or not the universe carries an underlying logic or not. That's a deep line for someone else's blog. For a host of reasons, I accept and believe the statement that God created the heavens, the earth—all that we see and know.

What, then, do we do with the rest of Genesis 1? That's where the controversy within Bible-believers arises. The rest of Genesis 1 presents an orderly creation account as God creates first light, then the rest of the physical universe, followed by living things and finishing with humanity.

There's a few possible understandings of the rest of this passage. These are:

1. Literal. This is the simplest reading of the text: evening, morning, first day, sixth day, all lead to the conclusion that we're dealing with a literal time frame of 144 hours, followed by 24 hours of rest. This would seem the most likely in light of such passages as the Sabbath Commandment that treats the time frame as literal.

I like this concept. It's what I am most familiar with and it takes the text at its word. Moreover, it's in keeping with general high-views of Scripture and God: He did not put things in the Bible that are not true.

2. Symbolic. Every other interpretation of this text becomes symbolic: the days are symbols, stand-ins for something else. It could be that the days are stand-ins for eons or that the structure is a literary framework for understanding God's general work.

These views take the position that the text should be understand in view of spiritual meaning against it being a literal, historical viewpoint. The argument being that the passage does not fit the general revelation of the universe: 6 literal days, followed by not enough literal years in following chapters, does not account for what we see.

Personally, I see more weight in the first view point than the second one, but cannot count this as a fellowship-breaker. Neither is it the reason we homeschool our kids—that they not be taught evolution/Big Bang Theory ideas. The science book we're in now with them is from a completely atheistic viewpoint and they read the whole thing, not a white-out version that erases the controversy.

I think it does matter, more perhaps for theologians than for others, but it's not a question of salvation, either. That comes from believing whether or not Jesus Christ is the Savior you need for your sins.

If I can highlight parts of this chapter as "more important," which is always a danger: all of Scripture is important, so it's difficult to make that claim, I would highlight Genesis 1:1, Genesis 1:26-27, and Genesis 1:31. The summary is this:

I. God created all of it. It's His universe.

II. God created men and women as part of that universe. Humanity was created in the image of God and so has value, purpose, and ability. That applies to all humanity: regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender. Man and woman are in the image of God.

III. God created everything such that it was "very good." Not bad, not half-bad. Very good. That which God does is good. Seeking God's direction and His ways? Also good.

That's my summary of Genesis 1.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sermon Wrap-up

Last night, we heard Jonathan Hillman talk about his trip to Irbit, Russia, with FBC Stuttgart. He showed some pictures and shared how the trip went. I think we gained a great deal from hearing from him.

Yesterday morning, the sermon was from Matthew 8:5-13. Here’s the audio link: Primary and Backup.

Here’s the basic outline:

Matthew 8:5-13

The Faith of the Centurion

Story itself: v. 7 could also be a question "Shall I come and heal him?" or simply a statement that "I will come and heal him"

I. Non-Jewish--no Kingdom restrictions on ethnicity

I. Non-Jewish--this guy's not looking for a Messiah. In fact, the Messianic Expectations are counter to his job (and potentially his life)

I. Non-Jewish--no background of the Old Testament

II. Roman--yet uses "Lord"

III. Discuss use of "Lord" and the relationship to later persecution

IV. Worthiness--how do we behave?

V. Authority--being "under authority"--Some give me orders, I give others orders is the concept

V. Authority--belongs all to Him. Even the likely pagan recognizes that everything falls under Jesus' authority

VI. Faith--trust

VI. Faith--not totally learned from those around him, but developed

VII. Kingdom cleansing--those who think it is theirs without faith will lose it

VII. Kingdom cleansing--those who think they are unworthy but have faith will gain it

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Marriage and a Note

Actually, a note first: A good number of you who read this blog downloaded and read the devotional book I put together for Advent. Some of you even bought the Kindle version from Amazon.com, putting your hard-earned dollar out there for my work. To all of you I want to say a big "thank-you!" It's a far cry from being a featured, contracted writer, but it is a good feeling to have my own Author Page on Amazon.com. So, thank you again.

Now, on to the post!

I follow somewhere above 500 accounts on Twitter. Now, for what it's worth, I don't know most of those people and they don't read mine much more than I read theirs: it's a speed-scroll to see what links and headlines are there. Sometimes there is a relationship-building exercise involved, but Twitter, as a whole, is like a big class reunion in a gymnasium: lots of people talking and random people listening.

One headline caught my attention, but I didn't click through. It was a link to an article of "60 steps to a better marriage."  Well, it was an article of 60 different things to do for the sake of strengthening your marriage and avoid divorce.

Couple that with a resurgence of marriage books, especially among the Christian publishing world, and I am wondering:

Are we making marriage harder than it has to be?

Don't get me wrong. Learning to live with another person is difficult. How Ann Hibbard puts up with me through Wal-mart, much less through life, is still a mystery to me. Yet within the bounds of Christian marriage (the intended audience of the web articles and books that started this thought) is it really a 60-steps, 12 chapters to perfection journey?

Marriage is both simpler and more complex than that, all at the same time. Here's the simple aspect of Christian marriage:

You did not make a promise to another person. You made a vow to God about how you would treat that other person. That vow was to echo God's treatment of you: self-sacrificial love in the face of self-centered ego.

Start there and think about that. That is the picture of marriage in the Bible when directions are given. (There's a lot of examples of marriage, most of them are not so good and are not given as positive examples.) Marriage is pictured as reflecting Christ's love for the church. What did Jesus do? Died for sinners (Romans 5:8 ).

Guess what? You're a sinner. You might be a redeemed sinner who is judged righteous by God, but you still have sinner in your body. So does your spouse. Look at them through the Cross of Christ.

That's the simplicity of marriage. I'm convinced that if it was just about she and I, my wife would have hit the road a long, long time ago. Except it's not about us. It's about God and us. She puts up with me because she knows Christ died for me and she can love me because He did. I think she's so lovable that the reverse isn't necessary, but it is: we both have our moments.

Now, from this simple start comes the rest of marriage: how it fleshes out in serving each other, caring for each other, learning to listen, learning to find our own personalities in who God made us and how to work those together, that's the stuff of 365 days a year. (Well, 366 every now and again.)

But I'm afraid we've tried to turn the glorious mess of life, love, and togetherness into either a formula to be cracked or such a complexity that it looks hopeless. I've seen some of my fellow pastors that construct pre-marital counseling documents that run to dozens of pages. You need some warning about marriage, but you don't need a dissertation. There's not a formula to crack.

And the complexity gets overwhelming: if it takes doing 60 things to make marriage work, then who can handle it? I can't make an omelet without referring to Alton Brown's video, and that's only like 10 steps. How do I remember all 60 every day? We can't.

That lends to people giving up because they're overwhelmed. In turn, this is not a good thing. There are very few reasons to leave a marriage (another day I'll elaborate on the two/three I see biblically approved) and being overwhelmed because you couldn't make it through chapter 9 of the marriage book isn't one of them. We make it hard. Sometimes too hard.

So, to those of you struggling in your marriage, I want to say this: it does take work. Don't let anyone kid you about that. You have to try, and you have to want it to work. Checklists, though, may help with some things, but they aren't the panacea for your marriage. Stopping, spending time together to reflect on God's grace is a good start. Find some people that can encourage you and strengthen you.

For those of you who are not Christians or who are in a marriage to someone outside of the Faith (or you're not a Christian and you're married to someone inside the Faith), a lot of this won't quite click with you. There are people you can talk to and who will help you—don't give up without a fight.

It's hard work some days, but it's not nearly as complicated as some people make it out.

Doug

As always, a quick note on marriage: no one should feel their life threatened in their own home. Under no circumstances should someone stay in the house with an abuser and should take whatever responsible steps they can to ensure their own safety and the safety of their kids (if any). I would urge that you continue to pray for the redemption of the abuser, but you can pray from a place of safety and you should.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

BookTuesday: Reading Revelation

Who's ready for the end of the world? You? Your next door neighbor? Anyone out there really ready for the end…for the Apocalypse? If you're not sure if you're ready for the end of all things and are Biblically-minded, you might be spending some time reading Revelation to think about it. If so, you'll be looking at a book with a variety of interpretations and might want some help. When you look for help, you may find today's book: Reading Revelation by C. Marvin Pate and published by Kregel Publishing's Academic & Professional arm. (Can you tell which division gave me free books for this month? Last week, this week, and the week before?)

Reading Revelation: A Comparison of Four Interpretive Translations of the Apocalypse

A quick disclosure: the author, Dr. C. Marvin Pate, is now a professor at the university I attended. He came to the school about a year after I graduated, but the esteem I hold the school and professors that he works with now might cloud my judgment somewhat.

I'd like to break this review into a few components:

First: book style. This book is not made to hold up for decades of use. It is a softcover book with letter-size pages. It has the feel of a consumable workbook without the perforations. That's not all bad, but if you're looking for a heavily durable text, this is not it. I'm not aware of a similar content work, though, that's any better.

The book opens with about seven pages of introductory material followed by a five-column presentation of the book of Revelation from the Bible. The five-column section is printed in landscape format, while the introduction is in portrait. I will admit this: I see the necessity of that arrangement, but it's annoying. I like books that work like books are designed, not that I have to turn sideways to read. The format works, though, as the printer left plenty of space going into the binding to not lose text in.

Second: this book seems like it started as class notes and finishes as a textbook, and so the back contains a few pages of advertisement for other Kregel books. That's not really a problem, but it does squeeze the actual material page count below 200.

In line with this, the book does not provide a great deal of background study on the authorship or other details of Revelation. Neither does it delve into textual issues or circulation theories. It is strictly focused on interpretation of the primary textual reading.

Finally, content: Where to begin? The interpretations of Revelation are almost as numerous as the people who read it. However, that does not make for a good summary book. So, Pate has followed the norm and condensed the views on Revelation to four: Preterist, Historicist, Futurist, and Idealist.

This is where the content will disappoint some readers. If you have a well-formed view of the book of Revelation, you will likely not find your view appropriately represented by Pate's writing. This stems from him writing on views he does not agree with: though he cites sources for three of the views, he personally does not hold fully with them. The view left without a source is the Historicist View, mostly because it is not commonly found in modern times. It was most popular in the Reformation Age.

The five-column format then presents these columns:

Column 1: Greek Text from the NA27/UBS4 edition, presented without apparatus or footnotes, alongside a strongly literal translation of the Greek. Not much to debate here: rather than using an English version, Pate has made his own. His goal is stated as intended to make for a completely neutral, though archaic, translation. This saves the reader from having to have a Bible handy, but if you're not handy with the Greek, you would do just as well to have your Bible handy to verify that he's not around the bend on his translation. (He's not, but you should check.)

Columns 2-5: these present how each of the four major groups of interpreters would understand the specific verses at stake. He attempts to show how each school, for example, understands the 144,000 of Revelation 7. Throughout these, Pate attempts to be fair to all four views. The summaries sound nice, and the only version that it seems necessary to outright reject is the Historicist position, which has generally been rejected for a while anyway.

What I find lacking in this section is footnotes and references. In fact, that would be my primary negative regarding this book: there are 22 footnotes in the whole work, all in the introduction. So, if one is seeking further study in Revelation or to verify that, for example, the Futurist view really holds that Russia will lead the coalition against Christ or not.

This drawback builds to my criticism here: this book, in the end, feels like it should be part of a longer, more complete treatment of the whole of Revelation. Dr. Pate has written more on the subject, and perhaps the intention here was to create a companion work for his other works, such as his Four Views of Revelation (he edited that work and wrote one of the sections.)

If you have additional resources to explore Revelation, this one will make a handy addition. It's not the best introduction to the material, though. I would commend Pate's Four Views of Revelation for introduction above this work, and definitely encourage the reader to consult the two together.

Free book from the publisher in exchange for the review. My alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University, does not offer graduate programs and so Dr. Pate holds no lasting threat to tilt this review.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sermon Wrap-Up January 8

Good Monday to you all! Here are the sermons from yesterday.

Morning Audio Link is Here (alternate)

Evening Audio Link is Here (alternate)

If you'd like to subscribe in iTunes, click here. And if you use something other than iTunes, click here.

Morning Outline/Text

Genesis 3

Lord's Supper---Genesis 3

Sermon here: Genesis 3 and sin's destruction of human relationships. First, with the earth. Second, with each other. Finally, with God.

Our time comes to this: taking the bread and the cup recognizes our inability to do anything about that destruction. The earth waits for Revelation 22 and the New Earth--the work is only going to increase.

Our relationships with each other remain filled with fault-finding and criticism because our relationship with God remains fractured.

When we take the bread and the cup, we see the price God paid for our destruction. We acknowledge that we, each of us individually, caused that need. Not that your neighbor is a sinner but that you are. Not that I pastor a congregation of sinners but that my congregation's pastor is a sinner.

When we part from here, if we are not willing to work on fixing the destruction between us, after seeing what God has done to fix what was not His fault, then what good has it done us?

Evening Outline/Text

Matthew 2

Matthew 2: Visit of the Magi

Can you picture?

Wise men, astrologers, the greatest minds...the great political intrigues...

And it all comes back to worshiping God.

Focus on Matthew 2:12: don't go back the same way. 

Application:

1. It's not too late to come to Christ

2. Magi brought gifts showing who they thought Him to be...you know who He is, so what will you bring?

3. Don't go back the same: allegiances, alliances, assumptions

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

BookTuesday: The Post-Racial Church

Race still matters in America, despite many people's protests to the contrary. That we have a non-white President shows the array of possibility for all people in this country, but closer to home for many of us is the reality that we live in racial bubbles that do not readily pop. Instead, we take our bubbles out and push through the aisles of the grocery store hoping our bubbles don't get squished too hard against other bubbles.

Then, for many of us, we retreat into a bubble-safe zone on Sunday. It's called "church." While we can hang whatever explanations on that fact we'd like to, most Christians live in that reality. Most of us also recognize that something's not quite right there—racially isolated sinners worshiping God apart from each other when we know eternity will look very, very different from that.

How do we adjust for that? How do we change the reality that is into what it ought to be?

The first tendency may be to simply accept the way things are as the way things will be and not bother with change. The next tendency is to change the appearance, change the practice, without considering how or even why to make the changes.

Yet as Christians, we have to base our decisions on more than just the need to feel better about ourselves. We cannot excuse inaction, but feeling doesn't cut it. Our lives are supposed to be grounded in the Bible and led by the Spirit. it is the Spirit of God that is convicting us and bringing that unease about the status quo. We need to search the Scriptures to base our actions on the foundation of God's Word.

That is the express goal of Matthews & Park's The Post-Racial Church. They write to highlight the need for rekindling a passion for racial/ethnic reconciliation through Christ among His people. The effort is to shine a light first on the need and then on the direction for reconciliation.

The book was a challenging read for me. The church I pastor is essentially monolithic in ethnicity. Honestly, there's not many folks in the church that aren't related to the ground around here. And the community isn't diverse, either—it's not a matter of divided churches in a divided town. It's a lack of option. Problems of race and ethnicity are big-city issues and far away problems (even with 'far away' being ten miles), not things that are here and now for us.

So, the book was challenging because it lit up issues that I have tended to downplay. With marriages falling apart, kids with needs, and an aging church population with shifting needs, is there really a need to consider how to reach people that don't live here? This book hit me with a resounding "YES" answer to that question.

Within the covers of this book are chapters addressing large-church issues like missions and worship and chapters looking at one-to-one issues like marriage and family. Each chapter address the biblical passages and examples related to the issue at hand. The chapters then conclude with a "Thought Provokers" section intended to help the reader put into practice what they've read.

In all, I would strongly recommend this book. It was challenging to read: some of the terms and style reflect that this is from Kregel's Academic and Professional group. Other parts are challenging because they shine light into places that it's hard to have light shined on. Get through it. It will make good reading for a church staff group or small group study.

The Post-Racial Church: A Biblical Framework for Multiethnic Reconciliation

Note: Disclosures! reflects my policy on book reviews, though it may be out-of-date with names of publishers. Kregel provided this book in exchange for the review. They do not exert any influence on the content, only the scheduling.

BookTuesday: The Post-Racial Church

Race still matters in America, despite many people's protests to the contrary. That we have a non-white President shows the array of possibility for all people in this country, but closer to home for many of us is the reality that we live in racial bubbles that do not readily pop. Instead, we take our bubbles out and push through the aisles of the grocery store hoping our bubbles don't get squished too hard against other bubbles.

Then, for many of us, we retreat into a bubble-safe zone on Sunday. It's called "church." While we can hang whatever explanations on that fact we'd like to, most Christians live in that reality. Most of us also recognize that something's not quite right there—racially isolated sinners worshiping God apart from each other when we know eternity will look very, very different from that.

How do we adjust for that? How do we change the reality that is into what it ought to be?

The first tendency may be to simply accept the way things are as the way things will be and not bother with change. The next tendency is to change the appearance, change the practice, without considering how or even why to make the changes.

Yet as Christians, we have to base our decisions on more than just the need to feel better about ourselves. We cannot excuse inaction, but feeling doesn't cut it. Our lives are supposed to be grounded in the Bible and led by the Spirit. it is the Spirit of God that is convicting us and bringing that unease about the status quo. We need to search the Scriptures to base our actions on the foundation of God's Word.

That is the express goal of Matthews & Park's The Post-Racial Church. They write to highlight the need for rekindling a passion for racial/ethnic reconciliation through Christ among His people. The effort is to shine a light first on the need and then on the direction for reconciliation.

The book was a challenging read for me. The church I pastor is essentially monolithic in ethnicity. Honestly, there's not many folks in the church that aren't related to the ground around here. And the community isn't diverse, either—it's not a matter of divided churches in a divided town. It's a lack of option. Problems of race and ethnicity are big-city issues and far away problems (even with 'far away' being ten miles), not things that are here and now for us.

So, the book was challenging because it lit up issues that I have tended to downplay. With marriages falling apart, kids with needs, and an aging church population with shifting needs, is there really a need to consider how to reach people that don't live here? This book hit me with a resounding "YES" answer to that question.

Within the covers of this book are chapters addressing large-church issues like missions and worship and chapters looking at one-to-one issues like marriage and family. Each chapter address the biblical passages and examples related to the issue at hand. The chapters then conclude with a "Thought Provokers" section intended to help the reader put into practice what they've read.

In all, I would strongly recommend this book. It was challenging to read: some of the terms and style reflect that this is from Kregel's Academic and Professional group. Other parts are challenging because they shine light into places that it's hard to have light shined on. Get through it. It will make good reading for a church staff group or small group study.

Note: Disclosures! reflects my policy on book reviews, though it may be out-of-date with names of publishers. Kregel provided this book in exchange for the review. They do not exert any influence on the content, only the scheduling.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sermons from January 1

First, a note:

If you'd like to print the whole year of the Bible reading plan that we're putting in the bulletin, it's here: http://bit.ly/rv38G6 or http://bit.ly/dhbrpdf It's called the M'Cheyne plan, named after the Scottish pastor, Robert Murray M'Cheyne who wrote it out in the 19th Century. More on him another day.

Evening sermon: Genesis 25. Audio Here or Here.

Morning sermon: Revelation 22. Audio Here or Here.

As always, subscribing in iTunes gets you the messages every week, and that's found here. If you need a different audio feed source you can get it at this link.

Evening Outline: Genesis 25

I'm putting the evening outline first because the outline was much shorter.

Do not trade it in...

The birthright of the grace of God

The value of God's grace

The greatness of God's provision

What are we trading our birthright for? Whether it is for our nation, our family, or ourselves?

What about our spiritual birthright? The one bequeathed by ages of martyrs for the faith of the Gospel?

Do we despise it by treating as replaceable? By acting like there are more important things?

If we lose it, there's no getting it back. It's gone.

Hold fast. To freedom in Christ. To the testimony of the Gospel. To the truth and power of the Word.

Morning Outline: Revelation 22:10-21

It's more of a semi-manuscript that gives way to an outline.

Starting at the End

Revelation 22:10-21

January 1, 2012

How many of you have ever planned a trip? A vacation, a work trip, even a crazed shopping run through the mall?

How did you go about the planning? Making sure you have a good trip somewhere?

Even if it’s just to the grocery store, the better planning comes by looking at the end and working your way back to where you are. What, you don’t think that works in the grocery store? All my growing up years, we shopped at the Air Base Commissaries wherever Dad was stationed. Every two weeks, we’d load up all the coupons, the list, and grab two carts to work our way through the whole giant grocery store to stock up for the next two weeks. Now, at the time, they used a single line system to check out of the store. You got in the big line, and then went to whatever cashier was available next.

For the record, I think Wal-Mart should do that, too, but that’s not sermon material.

The big line worked its way backwards, no matter what base we were attached to, through the freezer section. You planned your shopping to work all the way through the store until you hit the cold stuff.

Likewise when you plan a trip. Rare is the occasion that you just get in the car and “go” wherever you want. Typically, you know where you want to go, but you make adjustment plans about what to do on the way. Even if you’re headed in a circle back to home, you know the destination.

So, as we talk about starting our year, let’s consider how we want our year to end.

And for Christians, that question is really part of a greater question: what about life? What do we want at the end of it all?

To answer that, let’s go to the end, and work our way backwards:

After all, for the Believer, the question is “What does God desire for me? Where does His will take me?” more than simply “What do I desire? Where do I want to go?”

So, let’s consider the ending. Fortunately for us, God has provided the ending of all our measurable time in the book of Revelation in the Bible. Revelation holds for us many mysteries, but it also contains the unlocking of some of our bigger questions.

It contains the end of what we will do and be before we are permanently in the presence of God. After Revelation comes eternity, where we will see clearly and know fully…

Let’s look at how John concludes the Bible:

Read Revelation 21:10-21

1: Do not seal up the words of this book. While John speaks this in Revelation, the Holy Spirit has inspired this for the whole Bible. Do not seal up the words of this book:

1. From yourself: it’s an oft-quoted saying “A Bible that is falling apart reveals a life that isn’t.” Be certain that your Bible collects no dust this year as you read it, spend time with it, and grow with your understanding of it.

2. From your circle of influence: another oft-quoted saying is that you may be the only Bible some people ever read. Many people own Bibles but never read them. Far too many of those people are driven to that by the actions and attitudes of those of us who claim the name of Christ. Do not let your life seal off the Bible from another.

3. From your circle of influence: this bears being made clearer, especially this year: politics matter. The election process in this country is a blessed right granted by God, that we elect our leaders and change governments without violence—at least that’s how it ought to be. Do allow your understanding of the Word of God to direct your voting—Philippians 4:8 makes a great start: how does the candidate do with that verse? DO NOT confuse being Christian with being a part of any specific party or campaign. DO NOT be so enamored of your candidate that your actions for him/her destroys your credibility regarding sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No government can save souls: re-electing this one or replacing it will not atone for sin: only Christ did that. Vote based on the Word and focus on what matters even more: Jesus.

4. From the world at large: there are whole swaths of people without the Word of God or anyone to teach them about it. Dare we seal up the Word by feathering our own nests?

2: Let evildoers do evil. You do righteous things: this is not to say we ignore crimes, but I assure you of this: if we focus on taking the evil deeds away, we will miss the opportunity to change hearts. Believers are charged with doing righteousness and spreading the Gospel. The Gospel, when it takes root and grows, will change behaviors.

3: Be ready: He is coming.

4: Don’t tinker with His message: seriously. The Word is the Word. My words are not---neither are yours. Make certain that you recognize His Word as the key.

5: Whoever you are: come. Come to Christ. Come to the Father through Him. Come to the fellowship and the body. There is nothing to stand in your way but yourself. The Spirit calls out. The Church, the Bride of Christ calls to you. Come.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

I thought about listing some New Year’s Resolutions that I could keep, like committing to eat more donuts, exercise less, and miss a few more deadlines, but that seemed a little bit too pessimistic for the bright sunshine of today.

Instead, I want to post the following two thoughts to you:

1. What is your real goal for this year? Not some fluff that you ripped off the internet or some recycled old hash that you’ve never done and don’t really intend to do, but your real goal. It can be something you’ve never gotten around to doing and really intend to do. It can be some hidden dream to chase. It can just be to survive. Last year, survival was a big part of my goal.

Consider that goal. You’ve got 366 days this year and answer this question: if this goal is the only thing you accomplish in those 366 days, will that be time well spent or time wasted?

2. Look back over last year. All the good, all the bad, all the mundane things that happened. Guess what? They happened. And they are completely unchangeable. You have one thing in your control: how you build on what those items have left you. If it’s a smooth foundation, then you have a greater responsibility to build on it well. If it’s a rough foundation, then you have a freer slate. After all, if you’ve only got a small foundation poured, you can only build small.

If all you’ve got is an open field with rubble, you can clear and build big.

So, pick it up, clear the rubble, and build big.

Doug

July 5 Service Recap

Good morning! Here are the service recaps from last week. First we’ll see the morning services, both the 9 AM and the 11 AM, then there will...