Friday, March 30, 2012

Now you see it: Exodus 6

Exodus 5 left us in a spot where things had not turned out as well as Moses and the people expected (see here). If you've been on the journey through this walk through the whole Bible, though, you've seen that life does not always turn out as smoothly as those of us living it hope it would. Exodus 6 (link) gives us a little light for those dark times.

1.) We see that light in the reflection of history. Starting with Exodus 6:14 and carrying through the rest of the chapter are the details of some of the families in Egypt. Looking back at 6:3, we see God remind Moses of His appearing to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

One of our sources of light in dark times is the light that reflects from history. It is true that there are some pretty dark spots back there, some grungy places on that mirror. Yet we can see the ways which God worked then, the actions taken. We can see Ruth in the midst of the chaos of pre-monarchal Israel. We can see Irish monks copying books through the Dark Ages. We can see that while people move slowly, god still works through them.

History is the mirror that reflects light from God at work, though we also see those spots and blemishes from sin's effects.

2.) We see that light in the present work of God. For Moses and the Israelites at the time, it was in God's statements here that now you will see what I will do. It is the promise that God's hand will not be light or invisible.

God's work continues into this day. It is work of judgment and of grace, of wrath and of love, of rebuke and of reception. Those who continue to hold out against God will see one aspect, while those who worship and obey will see see the other. And we can trust that He will do all that we cannot.

3.) We see that light in the Word of God. Whether it is the promise of action and the commitment that He has heard the Israelites here, or in the Word of God that sits on my desk, nicely bound and printed. We have His Words, His promises and we ought to let that light shine into our lives.

God is not absent, and He is not silent. Just because we are not hearing what we want to hear or are not hearing anything 'different' does not mean there is no Word. There is a Word, the same one we've had for years.

Through all of this, we must not forget this: that God is not working on our schedule and in our methods is not evidence that He's not working. It's evidence that we are not seeing Him.

And when we cannot see Him, we must still trust Him. Not block Him out because of our despondency as the Israelites, but listen all the clearer. Block out the distractions, focus on the end-goal: eternity in the presence and love of God. And listen to what He has already said. Because it's good.

Today's Nerd Note: Genealogy and the Old Testament "begat lists." I use the term "begat lists" because that's what they are in the KJV: and this one begat that one, and so on. Important to our understanding of these lists is this: the word that becomes "begat" in English, and the associated words about "becoming the father of" or "the son of," point to a connected ancestry. While the default assumption should be literal father-to-son lineage, it is not impossible nor injurious to the text to see these as family lineages across multiple generations.

So, don't get too worked up if the years and such don't add up. This is an area that the Bible is accurate and says exactly what God intended it to say, but we may not quite understand it. Especially in American culture where we really tend to de-emphasize "family lines" beyond grandparents.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Yeah, that went well: Exodus 5

Exodus 5 (link) represents one of our greatest fears of following God: that we will do what God has commanded and the results will turn out badly. There is a tendency to expect that if we do what God tells us to do, everything will turn out somewhere this side of better than expected. That rainbows and butterflies will surround us and life will go swimmingly.

Except it does not work that way, does it? Real life is so much messier. Look at what happens in this situation and then we’ll come back to ours.

Moses and Aaron connect and stand before Pharaoh together. They present their case to him, and he shoots them down. He’s fairly dismissive about it, at that, with his comment of “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?” (see today’s nerd note at the end regarding the all-capital letters)

Now, if you’ve seen this movie before, you know that Pharaoh is just tempting God by doing this. After all, how many times does the antagonist of a novel or film mock the protagonist? Especially any source of power that the protagonist claims? And then it comes right back to bite the antagonist in the end of the story. Whether it’s Humperdinck falling to the power of love or the Emperor discovering that there is still good in Vader, you just see it coming. Hobbits turn out to be the most important race in Middle Earth, Jack Ryan can save the day, and so on..

Pharaoh is the basis behind those stories, I think. Consider how often that archetype appears in Western Literature (which does include modern movies: they have as much of a place in literature as plays of the 17th century) and you’ll see just how much our world is shaped not by only the morality of the Bible but the narrative itself.

He sets himself against God here. He does so by pleading an ignorance of this particular God, that the name is not one he’s familiar with amidst all of his other gods. Then he goes out and decides that a desire for freedom of worship is a sign of laziness and that it’s time to get those blasted Hebrews back to work. In addition, he’s going to fill their spare time by requiring that they gather the raw materials that, previously, have been provided.

It just does not go well. The Hebrews are punished for missing their brick quota, Moses and Aaron are castigated by the Hebrews, and Pharaoh will not let the people go. The whole trip is just a waste, Moses might as well head back to the sheep.

Ever feel that way? That you might as well just head back to the sheep, to the old life, to where you were before you tried?

After all, you expected that standing up for God’s truth would be a good thing. That people would embrace your efforts, cheer you on, be encouragers. Then, they weren’t. Your family, though religious, was hardly supportive. Your friends now think you’ve joined a closed-minded hate group. Your bosses have suddenly found work for you every time you want to gather with the church. Oh, and now you’re starting to see politics and international relations in a whole new light and that’s not making you happy either.

This happens when we are obedient: we throw ourselves fully in reliance on God for the outcome. We are trusting Him with the results, though we may not like those results for a time.

It’s a challenge. People will mock us, even the people we thought we were helping may turn on us. Yet in the end, the question is not whether or not it works. The question is simply: Has God spoken?

He has. We do. That’s it.

Today’s Nerd Note: English translations of the Bible tend to translate the Hebrew word YHWH as LORD, although often with small capitals for the ORD. This Hebrew name is the source of Jehovah, though we generally now find that first letter should be pronounced more as a Y than a J in English. German-speakers still tend more to the J. The Name is the “covenant name” of God, used to refer to Him as opposed to the individual named gods of other religions and used specifically in many cases referring to His covenant (like a promise only bigger) with the people of Israel.

Along the centuries, for fear of violating the commandment to not take the name of the LORD (there it is again) in vain, the Hebrews took on the practice of not pronouncing the Name and substituting the word “Lord” when reading aloud. English translations borrow that practice but use the small caps to differentiate the original word.

This is slowly going away. One reason is a recognition that under the New Covenant, we do not fear the Name very much. If God revealed Himself as “Jesus” and it’s okay to use that name, why not this one? Moreover, we see YHWH used more than 6000, and nearly 7000, times in the Old Testament. Why would we not call God what He calls Himself?

The other reason is less spiritual. Rendering the traditional small-caps on webpages is not very easy, so internet sites have to either go all caps “LORD” or just “Lord.” One looks funny and the other looks no different than adonai, which means just “Lord.” It’s odd that this reason will probably be what accomplishes using the name YHWH, or Yahweh, pronounced as “Yah-way” more than the sound, theological reason.

One other aspect: there are no grounds to translate any portion of the New Testament with the Name. It’s only in Hebrew: Greek has no equivalent. No, you’re not being spiritual or clever—you’re changing the Word.

I am personally divided on this one. I recognize the need to leave behind superstitious behavior: I don’t genuflect, I boil water on worship days, I don’t typically actually “kneel” when I pray and I certainly don’t greet every brother with a holy kiss at church. So, I can see the reasoning and logic of using Yahweh.

There’s just a part of me that can’t quite get over that line. What if it really is a bad idea? There’s nothing in the Gospels that indicates Jesus told the Pharisees they were wrong for not pronouncing the Name, Paul does not list specifically that the church shouldn’t be worrying about it, and so on. I am torn in the same way, only of greater magnitude, as I was in college when Dr. Buckelew told us in an advanced speech class that we were to be equals and call him “Roy.” I didn’t do it then out of respect for the man. If I finish my academic journey and go back to OBU as a teacher with a Ph.D., I won’t call Dr. Hays “Danny,” either.

It’s a respect thing and I don’t want to act like the Holy One of the Universe has been torn down to my level. I know that He emptied Himself in the Incarnation and I can call Jesus, Jesus, but I have trouble just tossing a “Yahweh” out there. There’s my take on that.

If you want a more driven-to-change take, see Dan Phillips’ excellent treatment on this at his blog, here. Dan’s a pastor in Texas and pulls no punches with anyone, anytime.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

So long, Jethro! Exodus 4

We're still at the burning bush, but we continue in the conversation in Exodus 4 (link) and the bush itself doesn't really come up again. I wonder if we make a bigger deal of the bush and its burning but not burning situation than prior generations did, including Moses' generation.

This chapter deals with the conversation between Moses and God. The conversation where Moses tries all the various and sundry excuses he can come up with not to do what God is telling him to do. The conversation where God patiently provides Moses a few answers, then puts His anthropomorphic foot down and says, essentially "I am God. Get to it."

For those of us who are Christians, this point comes home to us. Start thinking of the last difficult thing you knew you God had told you to do. Maybe it was something easy, like becoming a brain surgeon. Maybe it was harder, like loving your enemies. The latter, of course, we know God has told us all to do, while the former is more of our decision based on wise application of the Word of God.

We make excuses and list our reasons why we cannot possibly do it. We do this in churches: we're too small, it's too hard, our 'leaders' won't let us, our leaders didn't teach us to do social justice, our church is 'too big' for congregational accountability, and so on and so forth. We do it in our lives: it's going to take too much time, it's too hard, I'm hurt too bad, 'they' were too mean, or any other excuse we can concoct. By the way, many of our modern excuses have too much "they" in them: whether it's a church member blaming the unclear "them" for why they can't come back to or can't leave a church or an individual so desperate for the approval of "them" that he cannot do what he most wants and feels is right. There's a case to be made for owning your own behavior. This is not that case.

Rather, this is the point I wish to strike: there comes a time in life when we have to decide if we're willing to say "So long, Jethro!" and hit the road or stay put on the hillside minding the sheep. In all honesty, it's our choice to make.

Now, truthfully, it ought to be a no-brainer. God has not appeared to us in a burning bush or even a pillar of cloud and fire, but rather by placing the Holy Spirit within us and the Word of God in our hands. He has provided both the forgiveness of our sin debt and taken the punishment for our crimes against his holiness while also crediting us with being righteous.

So we ought to be quick to pack it up and follow in obedience without really debating the issue, but we do debate it, don't we?

Yet for many of us, it's really past time for having the discussion and looking for loopholes to avoid obedience. It's time to load up the wagon, stop by the house and say "So long, Jethro, I'm off to do what God commands. There are people in bondage: bondage to sin, bondage to tyranny, bondage to fear, bondage to oppression. And I will carry the message of freedom in Christ and put my effort into that."

Today's nerd note: Exodus 4:24-26 troubles some of the great Biblical scholars. Since it troubles them, I'm nowhere near going to explain it fully and adequately in a blog post. I think the better angle of interpretation here is this: circumcision was a mandatory part of the covenant with God. It was a critical outward obedience that marked a father's commitment to raise his sons to be godly men. Moses had not taken that action. He was, in essence, about to go lead the covenant people of God without obeying the covenant himself.

That never works. If someone is not going to honor the commands of God themselves, then they are not fit to be the leadership of God's people. Not that we await perfection in our leaders: sin happens, mistakes happen. Rather, we expect our leaders to strive to do the best they possibly can and to certainly not take blatant steps of disobedience to God's Word. It's a big deal: one does not lead others in the body of Christ if one is not following Christ yourself. Holding on to that would solve about 78.3% of church problems. Although it will not solve the problem of made up statistics.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Burn, Baby, Burn: Exodus 3

Moving ahead Through the Whole Bible,  we find Moses working through a semi-normal nomad life: he's tending Jethro's flocks, being married, raising a family. All well and good, and fairly monotonous. That is, until Moses drifts over to the west side of the wilderness, somewhere in the neighborhood of Horeb. Exodus 3 (link) gives us that story.

Today's nerd note: Exodus 3:1 refers to Horeb as the "Mountain of God." Portrayals such as the movie "The Ten Commandments" draw the conclusion that Horeb was always known as this, but it is possible that Moses came to refer to Horeb as the Mountain of God after this experience. Keep in mind, Scripture is not a "live-blog" of an event: historical narratives are written down (or reviewed/edited) after the events happen. Therefore, sometimes later knowledge (like place names) is used to help bring clarity. At least, it would have brought clarity to the original audience.

This chapter could be the source of a year's worth of sermons. In fact, that might be a good challenge: preach one year's worth of sermons that use Exodus 3 as the start point and then use additional passages of Scripture to illustrate or explain those points. You could do it, if you had the attention span for it. I digress…I don't know that I could blog it for a week.

A few thoughts on this chapter:

1. You need to read the whole chapter and see what is said. You'll miss good stuff if you just read my statements. Really, that's a good habit whenever someone goes to talking Bible stuff—read the whole passage. You may find that there's more going on than you or the speaker/writer realize.

2. I wonder what the modern American religious scene would do with the burning bush. Think about it, if your favorite religious author/speaker/teacher/preacher was walking along and encountered a burning bush. If you were walking along, what would you do?

Most of us would stop and look. Then, I fear far too many of us would then run on and blog about it. Or we'd write a book about our burning bush experience and then take a speaking tour. We'd analyze the bush, maybe capture some cell phone video of it. Then, we'd congratulate ourselves for seeing the bush, even if no one else got back to it. We would celebrate that, thankfully, we were carrying an iPhone to get a picture of it instead of being some low-brow whose phone only makes calls.

The offers would pour in: we'd speak at this conference or that coalition; we'd get to rebuke others because we had seen a burning bush and they hadn't. We'd take apart the symbolism: God showed the burning bush to this person, so that means (fill in the blank); the bush was here, so that means this; it was this type of bush, so it means that; and so on and so forth. And we'd expect people to listen to us because we were the witnesses of the flaming curtilage!

But what was the point of the burning bush?

The burning bush was there to get Moses to listen to the words of the Almighty God. Notice: Moses is not told to go the people of Israel and say he saw a bush. He is told to take them God's words about their situation. The bush is merely an attractant to get his attention. It's not meant to be the focus of the story.

God and God's words to Moses are the focus. God does not tell Moses that His name is "The God who can flame bushes without damage." He says that His name is "YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

We must ever be careful not to confuse the lesser things of God, the simple ways He gets our attention, with His revelation of Himself in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, and the Word of God given us in the Bible. The former things are nice, but the latter Truth is what our lives are driven by.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I want my baby back, baby back…Exodus 2

In case you've ever wondered, the chapters are not natural to the original text of Scripture. So, taking a chapter-by-chapter approach is somewhat artificial and tends to cause certain parts to be overlooked while other parts are overdone. Exodus 2 (link) is a good example of that: 40 years of Moses' life are present here. I can't cover them all and keep this post a reasonable length. Read it and study it on your own as well to see what gets left out.

The Hebrew people in Egypt have multiplied into a fairly intimidating group of foreigners, leading Pharaoh to install taskmasters to oppress them. Finding that this will not slow down their growth or reduce their cultural identity, he then goes into a policy of population control: the undesirable Hebrews will be killed. The baby boys are the most undesirable, so they are to be thrown into the river.

Why the boys? If you eliminate the males and leave the females, then the rising generation has to intermarry with other cultures and assimilate. Also, you begin a generation that will be somewhat light on warriors. Pharaoh has simply ordered a policy that benefits his kingdom. All people are not equal in Pharaoh's eyes, so he sees no problem with his policies destroying some lives for the sake of the greater good.

In the midst of this, though, a Hebrew couple has a baby boy. They've already got a son, born before the population control orders, and a daughter. Amram and Jochebed could not simply throw their baby into the river, though, so they borrowed an idea from earlier Hebrew tradition and built an ark. Really.

Here's your Bible nerd note for the day: the Hebrew word translated as "basket" here is the same word used in Genesis of the big boat Noah built. In fact, it's only used of Noah's boat and Moses' basket. Interesting, right?

Jochebed puts Moses in the ark and then follows Pharaoh's orders to put the baby boy in the river. Fortunately, he floats. He floats right on down the river to Pharaoh's daughter, who rescues him from the river. Then, thanks to Miriam, Jochebed gets her baby back: she is given charge of the young baby as his nurse.

After a few years, though, Pharaoh's daughter gets her baby back, and raises Moses in the court of Pharaoh. He is taught the learning of the Egyptians and is expected, likely, to take his appropriate place among Egyptian nobility. There is no clear reason why Pharaoh's daughter rescued the baby from the river. Certainly we see the work of God in it, but what was she thinking? We don't know, but it might make a good story to invent.

One day, though, Moses goes out to where the Hebrews are working. He sees their situation, and sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Moses kills the Egyptian and hides his body. That's not quite the way an Egyptian prince should act, neither is it the way that God will deliver Israel from their bondage.

Moses then has to flee from the land of Egypt. He cannot go to the Hebrews, for Pharaoh wants him dead. He flees to somewhere in Sinai or Arabia, and settles in with a man named Jethro. Considering this, he was likely somewhere in the southern areas.

He settles in, marries, and begins to perhaps think he will live in Midian for the rest of his days. He won't, but we see his story looking back.

What is here for us? Certainly a narrative of how God worked then, and since God is unchanging in His goodness and righteousness, it's good to know how He has done. How He has done will give us insight into how He will do.

Then there are a few things to consider:

1. Obedience to God trumps obedience to man.

2. The purposes of God will work, even if the efforts of man are to unravel those purposes. Think about it: the needed deliverer is protected, basketed, and floated down the river, right into the arms of the one person who can save him. Really? What are the odds?

3. Methods matter. You can save a people one life at a time, but you likely cannot deliver a people by picking the guards off one-by-one.

4. Lives matter. Small lives, big lives, Egyptian lives, not-Egyptian lives—matter. Any philosophy, theology, political structure, economic model that is based on the idea that some lives are more important than others is in trouble. It goes from in trouble to wicked when it allows the "important lives" to extinguish, either actively or passively, the ones it deems "less-important."

That's critical: in forty more years, Egypt is going down, hard. Repentance now could have avoided it, but that wasn't in their hearts.

What's in ours?

Friday, March 23, 2012

No Elephants in the World: Exodus 1

Note: I finished Genesis yesterday in Through the Whole Bible. What next? Exodus, of course. I hope to start adding in some New Testament, but I haven't decided whether to rotate chapters or books. If you have an opinion, leave a comment and let me know.

Exodus. It's a book about escaping from slavery in Egypt. Many people know Exodus better than any other part of the Old Testament because it makes for great movies and good stories. Yet there's plenty of material here to look back through and consider.

Take Exodus 1 (link) for starters. There's a very important message in this passage, and it's one you might have heard preached a time or two. If you have, great! If you haven't, well, maybe you will soon.

The first chapter of Exodus details how the family that arrived in Egypt at the end of Genesis went from being met at the Court of Pharaoh to being oppressed in slavery. It also covers some 430 years of time in the span of, well, one chapter. Much effort has gone into trying to determine who the Pharaoh was who "knew not Joseph" and, consequently, who the following Pharaohs are.

I actually think that what happens is a gradual forgetting on the part of the kings of Egypt. Think about it in American political history: how long do we remember the good deeds of one group or another? Think I'm wrong? Consider this: what national political party was formed primarily to unify abolitionists? If you don't know, then you should look that up—but you just proved my point. If you do know, consider how that party is viewed now—and that proves my point.

So, through the course of time, the Egyptian Monarchy forgets Joseph. They forget the benefits that he brought to the country. They forget that the flocks and herds of Pharaoh benefited during the years of drought because they were tended by nomads from arid regions. There have been the benefits of keeping the Israelite people together in the entrance lands of Egypt: new people groups have not been able to slowly infiltrate Egypt by migration, the land there is full.

Yet over the years, those benefits are forgotten. The Egyptian King says, in effect, "What have you done for me lately?" and finds the answer to be "multiplied in number but not assimilated into your culture." That answer is a threat.

With that in mind, here is a fact of life that we need come to grips with: there is no point in doing good things for the world around you. Seriously. Altruism is a waste of effort. Because, eventually, what you have done will be forgotten by those you did it for. Joseph saved Egypt and it was forgotten. Christians have been at the forefront of education, social reform, equality efforts, and religious freedom for all throughout centuries, but it's often forgotten.

The world forgets. So do not bother with doing things for the world. They won't appreciate it.

However, the chapter does not end with a forgetful king. It ends with a faithful God. Take a look down at Exodus 1:20. This refers to God honoring the midwives of the Hebrew people for their obedience to Him. A key component is that Shiphrah and Puah chose to do what was right in direct defiance to the law of Pharaoh. Direct defiance. They went exactly against what the world wanted from them and did what they knew would honor God instead.

How does this come to us:

1. As stated, trying to do things to please our worldly neighbors may help for a while, but it will be forgotten. So keep in mind that what you do will be overlooked eventually and the immediate reward you get, if any, will be all you get.

2. The real goal of God's people is not, nor should it ever be, to do things to please the world. It is to do the things which are pleasing to God. We see that here in Joseph and Shiphrah and Puah. We do not know Joseph's story from Egyptian archaeology. it's not there, at least not that has been found yet. Neither is Pharaoh likely to have recorded Shiphrah and Puah's bravery in defiance of him.

God, however, remembers. We find the stories of these three people in God's Word, where they are recorded to remind us of what matters most. Obedience to God, service to God.

Sometimes, oftentimes, that service is of benefit to the world around us, as Joseph's was: but he did it for God, not Egypt. We must be the same: we feed the poor for God, not society; we seek common good in obedience to God, not for rewards or even tax-exempt status.

Sometimes, and in growing times (see here regarding church efforts to feed the hungry) more often, doing the right thing will require disobeying the authorities of the world or at the least, disregarding what the world thinks is a good idea. It is valuable to remember that we work for God, not for man, and to do what God requires.

In the end, the only that matters is whether what we have done meets His expectation, because there are no elephants in this world: everyone forgets but God, who is eternal.

By the way, if you want my opinion, Amenhotep III is the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Thutmose III raised Moses, Thutmose IV ran him out of the country. Akhenaten is the Pharaoh who tries to put everything in order after it all goes splat. No, I know of no major scholar who holds that opinion. I'm still looking for one. Or accepting heavy-duty funding to become one, but that will require lots of time and a few trips to Egypt and England.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Mummy Part I: Genesis 50

First a quick note: thanks for sticking with me for 50 posts in Genesis. This blog through the whole Bible, one chapter at a time thing is going to take a while. I’d reward your patience with some cookies, but I haven’t perfected my email-a-snack technology yet. Thank you again for reading.

Jacob’s last words were found in Genesis 49, and we looked at that yesterday. Now we move rapidly from Jacob’s death to Joseph’s death. At the beginning of Genesis 50 (link) Jacob dies and Joseph has the Egyptian embalmers prepare his body. In short, Joseph’s Daddy becomes his Mummy…

A few notes on this occurrence: the embalmers utilized the entire 40 day process. That indicates a level of respect and a plan to preserve the body. The Egyptians as a people mourned Jacob for 70 days. That’s a lot of time for a foreigner, and it conveys the high esteem for both Joseph and the age and wisdom of Jacob.

Then, Joseph, his brothers, and a crew of the high people of Egypt travel back to the cave of Machpelah and bury Jacob there with his ancestors. This is done with great sorrow and much weeping, such that the Canaanites are astounded by it.

On the way home, Joseph’s brothers are concerned that Joseph’s revenge has simply been delayed until their father’s passing. After all, there’s a great human tendency to see in other what we have in ourselves, and I think Joseph’s brothers see the possibility for patient vengeance. That’s not unlike what they did to him, is it?

Joseph’s attitude is a good one here, though, and he reminds his brothers that God has used their sin for the good of them all. There’s a hint, though, of something else: “Am I in God’s place?” could also rightly be taken as “God will deal with what you have done.” Joseph expresses his trust that the Almighty will handle the issue of justice for him.

Then, in the course of time, Joseph dies. He charges the people of Israel to take his bones from Egypt when they leave and bury him in the land of promise. Apparently, even within Joseph’s lifetime, the situation had changed enough that there was no taking him back to bury him right then.

So, he’s embalmed (and becomes his own mummy) and stored in a coffin for later transportation.

That’s the summary of the chapter. What can we take from it? Here are a few things:

1. Honor your commitments. That’s two of the three vignettes in this chapter when you boil them down. Honoring Jacob’s request and Joseph honoring his prior-expressed forgiveness of his brothers.

2. That’s right: forgiveness is a commitment, and a lasting one at that. To forgive means to actually let go of the right to avenge the wrong done to you.

There are a few thoughts with that: 1.) Forgiveness does not automatically dismiss consequences of justice. You may forgive the robber, but society has a need for certain judicial actions anyway. 2.) Releasing the right of vengeance does not equal perfectly restored relationship. Sin tends to show itself in habits and it is not unforgiving to be mindful of the pattern. 3.) Forgiveness is a long-term thing—if you claim to forgive now, you are releasing the ability to come back years from now on the same item.

The forgiveness aspect of life is hard. In fact, proper forgiveness can only come from a heart full of God, because only God is really able to forgive. Through Christ’s vicarious death on the cross, the judicial need is satisfied, the habit of sin can be wiped clean, and He now lives forever, securing eternal forgiveness.

3. Finally—don’t assume the story ends with you. Joseph knew that he wasn’t the end of the line and that Egypt wasn’t the final place. Live and die knowing that the story of redemption goes on and goes forward and trust God, through his people, to work out whatever details you leave behind.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Famous last words: Genesis 49

"Everything is going according to plan."

"Don't worry, it will only be a small explosion."

"Hey, y'all watch this!"

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance" (Nearly the last words of General John Sedgwick at Spotsylvania in the Civil War. His actual last words were to the man who had just dodged a bullet right in front of him. The, the sharpshooters didn't hit an elephant. They hit the General. Story here)

We refer to the dying statements of great people as their last words, and sometimes we speak of those with disdain, as "famous last words" is not a cliché for when someone seems to invite doom by their statements of assurance.

Yet what put that idea in our minds was a long tradition of recording the closing words of great leaders and people. There's often a good closing thought—even if the words aren't exactly their last but are, rather, their planned last words.

That's what we have from Jacob in Genesis 49 (link). His intended last words. Now, much ink has been spilt over the years analyzing his blessing on his twelve sons, and his lack of blessing on some of those sons.

It's been pretty good ink, though, and I'll not rehash all of it here. It is interesting to note the Jewish Midrash (scribal teaching/rabbinic writings) that consider Genesis 49:10 as a Messianic prophecy. Some would posit that since Jesus came, the Messiah of the Jews who saves both Jews and Gentiles, there will not again be an actual king of Israel. I'm not so sure about that part. (The king part, not the Messiah part.)

I want to instead put our attention to Jacob's last words after he blesses his sons. Take a look, if you could, at Genesis 49:29-32 and consider what we find there:

1. His view of death: Jacob views death as "being gathered to his people." Compared to all the ways we speak of death, I think this is one worth recovering into our usage. While nothing surpasses remembering that all that is left is the shell and the nut has gone, we would do well to view death as about who we are going to and where we are going more than about what we are leaving. For the Christian, the greatest part is going to the presence of Christ, though it's hard not to consider gathering with our people from the ages a good one.

I look forward to being gathered with Hibbard Redgrafesthorpe and asking how England was without those blasted Normans. Assuming he's there, of course, which might be a big assumption. Back on task, I would simply highlight that death is not an ending point for Jacob, but a transition point. A one-way point, to be certain, from whence no man returns, yet just a transition all the same. He will walk the rest of the road he started walking at Bethel and will find himself in the true "House of God" surrounded by his people. What of the rest of us?

Original language note: I find fault with the New Living Translation here. In their effort to translate with dynamic equivalence, they add the word "die" and make the statement "I will die and join my ancestors." There's a Hebrew word for "I will die" and it's not present. Translating "gathered to his people" as "join my ancestors" is not a big problem, but I find something missing in adding "die." Jacob's statements indicate no such sense of finality as we take in that word.

2. Jacob asks to be buried back in the land of promise. Why? I think that it's partly because it's home for him, and where his wife is buried, and his father, his mother, his grandfather, and grandmother. Partly, though, I think it's to remind the family that Egypt is not home. That's important to him, and will be important to them in times to come.

Likewise for us: don't forget that this is not home. True, it's a nice enough campground and we ought to leave it better than we found it, but there will be more time spent in eternity than there will be time spent here. What choices are we making about that? Are we going to leave, even in the end, a legacy that reminds others of the God Who Is or will we leave something else?

3. Finally there's this: honor your father and mother, even to the end. While it's somewhat of a struggle to put exact actions into that commandment in modern days—does that mean no nursing homes? What is the respectful way to tell them they're too old to drive? How do I tell him/her that he/she is too old to get remarried? Those are just examples of the questions that come to mind.

Yet however we answer those questions, we must come back to the Scriptural concept of honoring our parents. We see it explicitly stated in the Old and New Testament, and we see it implied in the actions of the sons of Israel here. They listen and respect their father. They don't write him off as a crazy old man or any other such insult. We should remember that.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Keep your hands where I can see them: Genesis 48

Jacob and family are safely in Egypt, as we've already established. Except that "safely" does not mean that all is well. In this case, Jacob is sick. He's actually sick and dying, and his last acts are recorded in the closing chapters of Genesis. Today, we'll take a look at Genesis 48 (link).

Joseph is hard at work, managing the economy of the world's current superpower, Egypt. He gets a message, though, that his father is ill. We're not talking the ill that I've had these past few days of sinuses and fevers. We're talking about a deathly ill. Joseph does what we all would want to do in the situation, and goes to Jacob's side. He takes his oldest two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, with him.

Then some events happen that relate to inheritance rights and legalities. I am not an expert on the laws and customs of all the Ancient Near East, but my supposition is that Jacob had removed Joseph from his list of heirs those thirteen years ago when he thought Joseph dead. Moreover, it was the right of the firstborn, Reuben, to get a double-portion of the estate. Essentially, that firstborn counted twice: if you have 3 sons, you divided the estate into 4 portions and the firstborn gets 2 of those portions.

Jacob, though, does not intend that Reuben will stand alone as the biggest heir, especially if Joseph is not due to receive anything. Instead, Jacob adopts Joseph oldest two boys, the ones who were already born when Jacob entered Egypt, as his own. This will allocate to Joseph's offspring an inheritance roughly equal to the firstborn's.

Though something worth noting is the incident in the middle of the chapter. Joseph brings his two sons to Jacob, and Jacob blesses them, but he gives the greater blessing to the younger son. This happens despite Joseph's effort to stand his sons in the right place to get the better blessing given to the older son.

Yet is it any surprise that Jacob, himself the younger son who was blessed above the firstborn, blesses Ephraim over Manasseh? It ought not be surprising to us that Jacob would have a preference to bless the younger.

This bothers Joseph, but his father will not be dissuaded. It is his to bless as he sees fit, and in fact he is blessing based on the foresight that God has granted him.

When we back away and look at this, it's not that different from our lives. We expect that certain decisions and certain positions will entitle us to blessing. I lifetime of this work or that attitude should give us more than someone who came after us.

Except that's not how grace works. Grace works like this: the one who gives grace gets to give as much or as little to whomever He chooses. Even the unworthy can be added to the blessing.

That's what happens to both Ephraim and Manasseh here, neither deserve the blessing they receive. Manasseh is not unblessed, but is just not blessed as richly as Ephraim.. The real focus of Ephraim's greatness will be that there's more of his descendants than Manasseh's.

When we consider how God has worked in the world around us, we see this still at work. Sometimes, the newer surpasses the older, sometimes the older is forgotten and should not be, but in all things it's really about God's grace. He does not owe us another day, yet He gives them to us all the same.

Next time you're concerned that someone else has been blessed more than you, stop and consider the blessing that you do have, stop and consider what God has done. Perhaps you can rejoice just the same.

Monday, March 19, 2012

High interest loans: Genesis 47

We've safely moved Jacob and family on down into Egypt, and Pharaoh has allotted them space in the land of Goshen. He's even offered jobs for the most capable among them to handle Pharaoh's livestock. It would seem that the purpose of this narrative section has come to end with the opening portions of Genesis 47 (link).

It doesn't end there, though. We zoom back out from the focus on Joseph and his family and take a look at the overall situation in Egypt. We see that the famine goes on throughout Egypt and Canaan. We see further that there's a price to be paid for food, and that price is not cheap.

First, Genesis 47:14 shows that Joseph gathered all of the money of the people in exchange for food in the opening portion of the famine. All of this went into the treasuries of Pharaoh. The economy of the time was non-monetary, so we're probably looking at rough gold, silver, and other precious items, or specific finished goods made of these materials. It's not cash, though.

Then, when the money's gone, the people trade their livestock for food in Genesis 47:17. This includes both 'cattle' which would have food value and horses and donkeys that are work animals. In essence, the people sign over the deeds to the animals, receive food as payment, and then some of them are made responsible for caring for those animals. Which now belong to Pharaoh.

Finally, the people agree to sell themselves into Pharaoh's service in exchange for food. More precisely, they sell their land to Pharaoh and with it, their freedom goes: the land, the source of their survival, is no longer theirs. With the land go the people, and it all belongs to Pharaoh now. The people work the land for Pharaoh and get to keep 80% of the crops and have to pay the king 20%.

Does that ratio sound familiar? Throughout the seven years of plenty, Pharaoh had exacted a tax of one-fifth the produce of the land. I checked with some experts, and one-fifth=20%. This one-fifth was the source of the food the people were buying from Joseph. Pharaoh had taxed it from them, and now they are being enslaved to get back what the king had taken. The one-fifth to guard their survival during the good years now becomes their permanent tax rate to the king.

A few observations on this situation:

1. If it gets collected as a tax, it's gone. You don't have a share of the tax money, it's not yours anymore. It's the government's. That's why it's critical to influence the government to take as little as possible and to spend what they get well, because it's not coming back. When you need it later, it's going to have strings on it.

2. Take a look at Genesis 47:25. That's a tough verse for me, because it cuts against nearly all of my American instincts. The decision of the Egyptian people is that it is better to live as slaves of Pharaoh then to die of starvation. Is there a time that survival is more crucial than freedom? My heart says no, but then there's verse 24: their little ones didn't have food either. What would I do to feed my kids? Better honorable service with a future hope than dishonorable actions, right?

I'm not sure I like either option, but those seemed to be all that was available to the Egyptian people. Meanwhile, Joseph's family is dwelling in Goshen, fed by his allotment, and they are acquiring property: apparently, some of the Egyptians are selling to the family instead of to Pharaoh.

However you slice it, though, this is a land where times are bad. And because times are bad, people are desperate. People are desperate, but they lack community in seeking their own survival and instead have to rely on a king who is driven by his own self-interest. In the end, the king has it all.

What about now? What about you? What about us? Are we considering the chaos that's possible? Are we going to solve those problems together or risk the alternative: that he who has the gold will make the rules?

While we have choices, we need to make good ones. Choices that strengthen our future and help us care for the good of us all.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wagons South! Genesis 46

After last chapter's happy reunion, Genesis 46 (link) has a more tearful, but likely more joyful reunion. Joseph sees his father again after all of their years of separation. Tears flow, and Jacob states that he is now happy to die, having seen Joseph again.

This is not an instant happening, though. It takes a little while to make this happen. Why? Well, you've got to remember, there's five more years of famine happening here. Five! In the first two years, Jacob has had to send his sons to Egypt for food twice. How much time and effort will be wasted by the family making annual trips to Egypt?

Additionally, it appears that Joseph cannot, at this time, leave Egypt. Take a look through the narrative: he sends wagons, sends brothers, but he does not go until the family is in Egypt. There's nothing textual to give a definite answer, but the explanation is either that his duties do not allow him to leave or that Pharaoh will not allow him to leave. Keep in mind that he was a slave in prison before he was placed in his current job and nothing explicitly states Pharaoh ended Joseph's status as a slave. Besides, with an absolute monarch like Pharaoh, everybody's really just his slave.

So, he sends the moving company to pick up his family. An important event to note is Genesis 46:1-4. Jacob, called by his name Israel, stops off at Beersheba and offers sacrifices to God.

There are not many times that Jacob is recorded as offering sacrifices. Generally, those moments are when things have been very tense for Jacob. This is not much of an exception. Here he is, leaving the land of promise and headed south. Abraham had been to Egypt, and that did not go well. Isaac had been in the land of Gerar, and that hadn't gone well. Jacob had been in Paddan-Aram, and that had not really gone well.

The idea of leaving the land a second time likely weighs heavy on the heart of Jacob. So he stops in the area he had grown up in, for Beersheba had been Isaac's primary dwelling place, and he offers sacrifices to the God of Isaac. God appears to him there, and reassures him of the presence and the promise.

The promise was that Israel the man would become Israel the great nation. That promise is fulfilled, initially, in the growth from the seventy-odd names recorded in this chapter to thousands of names recorded in Numbers that leave Egypt later.

The presence, though, is a different matter. Many times we have the same misunderstanding that the ancients, like Jacob, had. We misunderstand that there are places where God specifically is and, by extension, there are places where God is not. Jacob is headed into pagan territory: these Egyptians do not worship the One God of Isaac and Abraham. They do not even worship the same multiple gods as his distant relations in Mesopotamia.

If there is a place where God is not, then Egypt has got to be it.

Except God appears to Jacob at Beersheba and assures him that, no, Egypt is not a place where God is not. He assures Jacob that the presence of God is inescapable, and for Jacob, that's a good thing right now. Even traveling in a wagon, an aged man surrounded by his offspring, leaving the land of his birth, the land of his family, and headed to the edge of what he knows, God is with him.

When life brings us to that point, it is good to remember that there is nowhere to go that God is not. I know that, in some ways, that sounds intimidating, and it should be if we're talking about living in obedience or disobedience. Yet when we consider the idea of living in reliance on God, it's a reassurance. He is inescapable, not even accidentally. You cannot accidentally end up beyond the reach of God, you cannot intentionally get beyond the reach of God.

As His promises are good, so His presence is always with you. Even as you go from where you have been comfortable and cross over wilderness, desert, and wadi to go somewhere you never thought you'd be, God is there with you. Trust Him with your fears.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oh Brother, who art thou? Genesis 45

Now comes the big moment, the one in the story that has been promoted for the last two commercial breaks: we see how the brothers react when they find out that the big man in Egypt is their pesky little brother, Joseph. What will they do? What will he do?

Ah! The drama…the pain…the wondering…

Put yourself in the sandals of Judah, Reuben, and the boys. For more than a decade they have pondered life without Joseph. Maybe they have expected to see him as a slave somewhere in Egypt or along the caravan routes. Maybe they've remembered his dreams of greatness and have wondered if there would be any fulfillment of those dreams. Who really knows if those were just delusions of grandeur or if they were predictive dreams?

It's a mystery what they really thought. I can imagine, though, the dread of encountering Joseph again. Maybe they've talked about trying to buy him back from slavery if they ever find him alive. Perhaps they've talked about how fast to run if they encounter him alive and not in slavery anymore. And I would be unsurprised to find the blame game ready to run: it was Judah's fault, it was Levi's fault…

Pause here and consider this: what about Joseph? How many times in his chains did he consider what his brothers had done? Did revenge enter his heart? What about justice? Would not a few years of hard labor really be justice given to his brothers? We do not know what he thought in those years.

We only see what did happen. Joseph's one concern was this: What of the rest of the family? Are they okay?

He then goes on to make provision for all of his family, using his power and influence to bring at least 70 more people (probably more, counting servants and slaves) into a land already short on food. What has occurred here?

Grace.

Grace to the brothers: Joseph now sees God at work in the sins of his brothers. That does not excuse the sin. We should never take that God works through sinners sinning as an excuse to wrong another. Rather, when we are the one wronged, we look to see how God can work this together for our good.

As we see that, it becomes easier to extend grace to those who have wronged us. Especially for those 'wrongs' that, in perspective, are not life-altering. I've been around church folks for a long time, and we get wronged far too easily. That's not your pew, and no, this person didn't attend your family member's wedding, but that's not sinful. Get over yourself.

Even the real wrongs are used by God for His purposes. There are a few things that would be worse than being sold into slavery, but not many. And God used it.

So, Joseph extends grace to his brothers. Not because he overlooks their sin but because he sees God's hand on him.

Grace to the Egyptians: why would God save the Egyptian nation as a whole at this point in history? He does not act to strengthen the power and longevity of the nations in Canaan during the famine. The Phoenicians? Nope. Only the Egyptians. Sometimes, the world around us is collaterally blessed simply by God's grace as He provides for His people. That's not wrong. In fact, that explains Pharaoh's excitement at the arrival of Joseph's family.

Grace to Joseph: bitterness and revenge destroys. God has helped Joseph respond with grace so that he is able to move forward with life.

Grace to us: why? We're not starving in Canaan in the 2nd millennia BC, are we? No, but we are starving in our souls. Without knowing and seeing God at work, we are dying inside. In this story, we see something wonderful: all of the promises of God are good and no matter what comes from this sin-soaked world, be it famine or feast, God provides the answer to his promise.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This is not that moment. Genesis 44

In the movie While You Were Sleeping, the Frankenstein Monster and Lone Star have a touching scene over a box of doughnuts. No, wait, that was Frank Barone and President Thomas J. Whitmore. I'm not sure…and I can't find an online clip, so you'll have to pull out that old VHS. It's ok, Sandra Bullock is nice and charming through the whole film.

Ox, the father, is talking about how hard he had worked to provide for the family, how much effort went into providing that one moment when it all comes together and then you have peace. Jack, the son, says "This is not that moment." And then the plot goes on from there…

Judah and the rest of Jacob's sons are when beginning Genesis 44 (link). They have that moment that they expect there to be peace. The food's loaded up, the Egyptians have been swell, and Simeon's out of prison. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Life goes that way for us. Everything gets lined up, the universe is functioning as we think it should, and then it all falls apart. By the end of the chapter, the eleven brothers of Joseph are fearing for their lives and wondering if they'll ever leave Egypt. Of course, since the famine rages on in Canaan, that means death for Jacob, Leah, their children, their wives, and everyone else that has been counting on them.

Things can go from bad to worse, but I think it's even tougher when things go from stable to chaotic. What can you do?

Remember that even if you are at the end of the chapter, you're not at the end of the book. Hold on, because it could get either worse or better—but you cannot control that. What can you do?

You can control your response. Judah steps up and does this. Joseph offers to just keep Benjamin in prison and free the others. This would take everyone off the hook, they could go back, explain that things were beyond their power and that without sacrificing Benjamin, they would have all starved.

Not at all unlike how they handled Simeon, if you think about it. All of those excuses could have come forward.

Judah, though, steps up and takes responsibility. For himself, for his actions then and in the past, for his brothers. For everything, he stands in the gap for his family. He may hope that it will turn out alright, but it may only be that he'll go to a deeper cell than his brothers for his confession. He cannot possibly know the outcome.

He just does what is right.

What about us? Can we do that? With no guaranteed hope of the outcome? Without knowing if there will be peace from our actions? Because you work hard for that moment…but this may not be that moment.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sermon Wrap-up for March 11

Well, I did it again: the batteries in my voice recorder died 2 minutes into Sunday morning's sermon. Being that it was only a 10 minute sermon, you would have missed four-fifths of it. I would like to have posted it just to prove that I can preach that short, but life happens.

The reason that I went that short was one of our church family shared his testimony, and I knew from his preparation work that he'd need more than just 5-7 minutes. So, I wanted, this one time, to allow for that and still being done near to the traditional time. Does that time matter? It does when the church family is trying to tackle meeting a few needs for folks on a time schedule. There's more to church life than sermons, folks—much more at times.

If you want to know, though, the morning sermon focused on Ephesians 2:4-10 and the grace of God to provide salvation by faith. However you slice it, God's grace saves us and we receive that grace by faith—have you? Will you?

Evening sermon was on 2 John. Here's the outline:

I. No love without obedience

II. No truth without relationship

III. No substitute for presence

Here's the audio link (or the alternate)

Once more…with FEELING! Genesis 43

Ever had to do something you dreaded doing? And the only thing that made it worse was the idea that you might possibly have to do it again?

That's the situation that faces Judah and the rest of Jacob's sons in Genesis 43(link). Genesis 42 saw the brothers head down to Egypt to buy some grain to survive the famine. We looked at that last week here. That trip cost them a brother: Simeon has remained in Egypt as a hostage to prove that this group of ten Hebrews were not spies. Of course, only nine went home.

The famine, though, has outlasted the grocery trip. Egypt still has food available, something that Canaan does not have. This leaves the family with only a few choices: starve, go back to Egypt for more, or move elsewhere. The simplest solution is to go back to Egypt. Well, simplest once you exclude willfully starving to death. Doing nothing is always an option, and often not the best option.

That leaves move the whole family to an unknown location or send the boys back to Egypt to buy more food. Jacob determines the best course of action is to go where food is known to be: go buy it from Egypt.

Except he is now caught in a dilemma. He has to agree to send Benjamin, whom he does not want to risk, or else Joseph (still unknown to be himself) has threatened all the others with execution if they come back. Finally, Jacob relents and decides to release Benjamin for the trip.

The clinching argument seems to be Judah's in verse 10: we could have been there and back by now. Funny how that phrase can cause many of us to spring into action. All of us realize that, in truth, our time on this earth is limited, and wasting it is disastrous.

They go, with an extra present for Joseph, and purchase food. Read the whole chapter to see how it all turns out—everything goes fairly well. They attempt to return the money from the first trip, expecting it to be an oversight, but are rebuffed and told that all is well.

It is to the idea of we could have been there and back, twice, by now that I wish to return. It is not uncommon that we have to tackle tough jobs. Perhaps even more frequent are the unpleasant ones. While I am no expert, I can imagine that saddling up the camels and trekking from Canaan to Egypt was definitely unpleasant and likely along the tough side as well.

But it had to be done: there was no other real alternative. Sometimes, life runs that way. We see what must be done. We try to avoid it, but there really isn't an option. It just has to be finished.

So, when that comes, tackle the task rather than delay it. Here are a few parts of that I think are worth remembering:

  1. Remember your prior promises. Like it or not, Judah, Reuben, and the rest were bound to bring Benjamin with them. You could make a good case that they hadn't promised that, but it was the conditions of the deal. They got food and left Simeon; more food would require the presence of Benjamin. If you have left a conditional deal behind, then remember when you get back to the task that you must honor your side of the deal.
  2. Take responsibility. Much can be made of Judah's prior guilt, but he at least takes personal responsibility for the outcome here. That's a good thing. Take responsibility for getting the task finished.
  3. Be cautiously optimistic. Good things could happen. So could bad things, but remember: park the car pointed out, but turn the engine off. You probably won't need the getaway. If you go and do what you know needs done, it will often not be as bad as you dread.
  4. Of course, it could be a disaster. Yet starving to death would be one, too.

 

Have a great night!

Book: The Big Book of American Trivia

Today's Book is from Tyndale House Publishers. A free book for a free opinion.

Today's book is titled The Big Book of American Trivia by J. Stephen Lang. It's published by Tyndale House Publishers.

The Big Book of American Trivia

This was an easy read. Well, sort of. It's a collection of questions of trivia about American History. It's not really a book organized to go through and learn these facts. Rather, it's one to challenge your knowledge and then go scrambling into the answer section to find out what the answer was.

We are using this book to challenge our kids during school as well as trying to remember what we learned back in college history. There are questions that come from the important parts of history as well as the lesser parts like entertainment trivia.

In all, this is a fun book to have on hand. It's hard to say much else about it—it's a trivia book, so you know what you are getting in it: questions and answers.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I told you so! TTWB: Genesis 42

Crises come in the lives of all people. Even the cave-dwelling hermit has to deal with bats and the occasional spelunker! When we face those crises there are good things to hear, useless things to hear, and absolutely irritating things to hear. Genesis 42 (link) gives us examples of all three types of statements.

If you have read the chapter, you know what is going on here. Famine in both Egypt and Canaan, hungry people all around. Going back a chapter, you'll see that Joseph has prepared Egypt with food reserves for these seven years of tough times. There's grain and seed stored up from seven years of plenty in Egypt, brought in by taxing the Egyptian farmers one-fifth of their harvest for those seven years.

A few words here might be helpful in understanding the situation. One might wonder how taking one-fifth seven times would provide seven years of food. That only totals seven-fifths, and no matter where you learned math, you should recognize that you're short of seven years that way. You're about twenty-eight-fifths short, to be precise.

The most logical explanation is that the years of famine were not years of utter and complete crop loss. Just years of really, really bad crops. At the time, you're dealing with an agricultural economy that plants next year with the results of this year. A bad year leaves you tight on seed for the next year. The next bad year can be your death. Seven in a row is fatal for nearly everyone. So, what has Joseph accomplished? He was stockpiled the seed grain that will start the next year. That's a little more obvious in Genesis 43, where the farmers come and ask for grain to plant.

With that in mind, let's get back to Canaan. Typically, Canaan would not have a famine on par with Egypt, but this was not a typical situation. As such, Jacob's family is in peril. Terrible peril: there is just not enough food. Considering what tends to cause agricultural famine, crop failures are likely only a portion of the problem. Drought, pestilence, and other factors are making things bad around the old homestead for Israel.

This is a crisis. Let us consider how it gets handled. There is, as always, a lot of talking. As I mentioned above, there's useless, good, and irritating things being said. Here they are:

1. Useless: Jacob's statement about not sending Benjamin because "harm might befall him." Really? Just after saying "Go buy grain so that we live and don't die?" Jacob really did not need to tell ten of his sons that they were expendable in his sight.

2. Good: Practical guidance on what to do, as when Jacob points out that there's grain in Egypt, so go buy some! If someone is facing a crisis and you have practical, achievable guidance, then share it. Consider this, though: let it be both practical and achievable. Jacob does not say "Go buy food!" He shares where the food is to be bought. Shouting "Get a job" to the unemployed is not advice, it's an insult. Telling an unemployed person where there is a job available and how to apply for it is.

See the difference?

The other part of Jacob's good guidance is a little on the direct side, but it's still valuable. He opens with "Why are you staring at one another?" In other words: "Get off the couch and do something!" It is one thing to do nothing when there is nothing to be done, but when there are possible actions, take them. Jacob's advice is both blunt and sound—a valuable aspect to remember.

3. Irritating: Bordering on insulting and completely destructive to the situation. That's Reuben in Genesis 42:22 when he tells his brothers "I told you so!" regarding Joseph's fate and their fate. The brothers are attributing the threat of prison at the hands of Joseph to their mistreatment of Joseph.

They could even be right. At this point in the story, Joseph has no reason to think his brothers have changed and every reason to consider retribution. In the end, we see him take forgiveness, but perhaps a little reciprocity is in his mind here.

Reuben's contribution, though, is useless to the situation. There's a time and place for laying the blame. There's a time and a place for proclaiming your innocence. In the middle of the mess, though, is not that time. First deal with the problem. Once you're all safely on your way home to Canaan with food to survive the famine, then bicker about who messed up.

Whether it's in the family, the church, the nation, or on the bridge of the Titanic, the question is first "How do we fix the mess?" Not "Who didn't see that iceberg?" Deal with the problem, not the blame.

Because while "I told you so" may be true, it is almost never helpful.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Book: How to read the Bible through the Jesus Lens

Quick notes: Through the Whole Bible will be back either this afternoon or tomorrow. Zondervan sent me a free copy of this book and required that I read and review it, but they didn't require me to like it.

Book data:

Title: How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens.

Author: Michael Williams, currently Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary and a member of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation.

Publisher: Zondervan

List Price: $18.99

Cover image:

image

At the outset, I have to make a confession. When Zondervan publicized this blog tour, I had to say which section of Scripture I would focus my reviewing efforts on. Now, though, I cannot remember what I told them I would do. The upside is that I read the whole book. The downside is that I expect a giant "Z" to be carved into my bookshelf for revenge.

Overviewing this book, Michael Williams has taken each book of the Bible and provided a brief overview of the theme and narrative of that book. He then provides a section titled "The Jesus Lens" that examines how the reader should view Jesus Christ through that book or a representative section. The conclusion of each chapter is a section on contemporary implications and questions for applying the lessons discussed.

For good or for ill, each Bible book gets about the same length of a chapter. Obadiah and Genesis get the same number of pages, Philemon the same as Isaiah. This is accomplished by summary and omission, though, not by invention. Williams has not added or created themes that are not there to lengthen chapters. Rather, he has had to leave things behind that are present to shorten others.

That's a typical issue for a summary book, though. I imagine that "Christ in Isaiah" would take a multi-volume set if it was not heavily edited.

Striving to remember my commitment, I think I am to look hard at what we call the Minor Prophets (basic reference here): Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

I chose these because, honestly, I've never thought much about reading Obadiah through any lens other than the oh-that-was-quick-and-now-it's-over lens. These books are often mined for quick one-liners, like Malachi's verses about tithing, and not a major focus for study in the church today.

Reading through Williams' take on these books did crack open a few seals for me. While he is making somewhat tentative connections, his work here provided good discussion questions regarding the text. I especially liked how he took Obadiah and made the connection between injustice, revenge, and the Cross.

Putting the "Jesus Lens" on these books was quite helpful in gaining an additional understanding of the unity of Scripture.

How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens was a good read for me. I would not recommend it as your only reference book or guide to reading Scripture, however. Here are few of the shortfalls:

1. Risk of over-focus. It's good to see Christ in the Old Testament, for example, but the story of redemption and grace at the Cross is not the only story present. This book is focused, like through a lens, on one emphasis point in Bible reading. It is also important to read the Bible for the rest of the content. Read Joseph's story in Genesis for how the Hebrew people understood it.

2. Lack of introductory material. Understanding the totality of each part of Scripture needs an examination of genre, setting, style, and authorship. This book does not really address those issues.

3. Some shaky connections. Keep in mind that Williams has produced a smartly-written book showing what he sees. Just because he sees it does not mean it is absolutely there. Any effort like this will have some views that are stronger than others.

These shortfalls, however, are not fatal. They are barely harmful, really, as Williams has hit his target of defining the "Jesus Lens" and showing how each book works with it. Just be sure to pick up a good general Bible intro book as well—or a good study Bible.

Free book received for review. For other opinions about this book, look here or at the Amazon page with reviews, here:

How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dreamers don't get the job: Genesis 41

Yes, the title is intended to burst your bubble a little bit. As we look at Genesis 41 (link), I hope to explain what I mean. So, progressing through the whole Bible, here we go:

The story recap: Joseph is still in prison. Well, that makes it almost sound nice. He's in a dungeon. That sounds better. Whatever you might see on an investigative journalism piece, there is no comparison between any modern American prison and 4000 years ago in Egypt. In an Egyptian prison is just not where you want to be.

Last chapter was approximately two years ago. Remember last chapter? Joseph interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker. The cupbearer was supposed to mention Joseph's ability to interpret dreams when he was restored to his position. The cupbearer forgot that little detail until Pharaoh had a dream two years later, and that dream has Pharaoh troubled.

Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dreams of fat and skinny cows, fat and skinny ears of corn. The dreams are a warning of the coming famine in Egypt and that warning has a seven-year preparation time. Pharaoh now sees the impending crisis and recognizes the need to prepare for the worst and avert the destruction of his people.

So, since Pharaoh had a dream and Pharaoh is the leader in the situation, Pharaoh takes charge and saves the people, right?

Wrong. Pharaoh looks at his court, his advisors, his nobles---and promptly gives the freshly-shaved Hebrew prison slave a job somewhere between Secretary of Agriculture and Grand Vizier. Possibly even as high as Great Grand Poo-bah or Illustrious Potentate, it's hard to say. The text gives us that Joseph is second only to Pharaoh, but it's possible that this is only in the matter of preparing for the famine.

Let's examine that thought for a moment. Pharaoh could have decided to take the job into his own hands. Pharaohs usually had some self-aggrandizing plan and building huge storehouses to save the people would have made good political capital for him. Certainly better than going down as Ozymandias, at the least.

But Pharaoh does not take the job.

Meanwhile, the scene is set here against a backdrop of the best and the brightest of Egypt. We should at least be able to assume that most of the nobles and court attendees were considered at that level. Yet none of them get the job either.

The job goes to Joseph. Why? Well, ultimately because this is how God is working out His purposes on earth. However, history is the study of secondary causes: how did God work out His purposes is the question we try to answer.

The job goes to Joseph because he had the insight to understand the dream, the character to handle the job, and no expected agenda in doing the job. The insight was from God, the character was his own work, and the lack of agenda was a side-effect of his circumstances.

The job goes to Joseph. Not because of his breeding, not because of his education, not because of his good looks. Not because of a bribe or a payback or a promise. Not even because it was his dream.

It was Pharaoh's dream, after all, was it not? It was. Yet Joseph is the best man to fulfill that dream.

That's a consideration for us today. It may be that our purpose in life is not to fulfill all of our own dreams. We may be the best people to fulfill the dreams of others. Another side is this: just because someone is a great dreamer does not mean that person is the best option to get the dream fulfilled!

Often visionaries and dreamers cannot get the work done to fill out their dreams. Pharaoh might have had no idea how to feed his people through a seven-year famine. Joseph did.

The ones that can be trusted to put a dream together are the ones who, like Joseph, have insight, character, and integrity in the situation. The ones who have wisdom from God, commitment to their tasks, and the experiences to sharpen their skills. These apply whether you are seeking to fill out your own dream, considering whether or not someone will be able to fulfill their dream, or you are looking for help to fulfill yours.

Worth remembering is this: sometimes, getting the dream fulfilled is more important than being the one to fulfill it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Not my kind of party: Genesis 40

If you know the story of Joseph, you know the basic events of Genesis 40 (link). I'll still give you the quick summary, because I'm a preacher after all: that's what we do.

Joseph is in prison. He is practically running the prison, but he's still in prison. While he is handling that end of life, Pharaoh has been offended by his cupbearer and his baker. In fact, so offended he's furious. Pharaoh (king of Egypt) sends them both to prison.

While in prison, the baker and the cupbearer have dreams. Dreams, especially ones you remember, are often troubling. These guys had to add in that they believed their gods spoke through dreams and that the dreamer had to figure out: 1.) which god had spoken; 2.)what that god wanted or meant. Christians, there's a good reason to be grateful for the Bible because we don't have to figure out those two questions!

Joseph interprets their dreams: cupbearer is headed back to work. Baker? Headed to his death. Both of Joseph's interpretations prove correct even in the timing he saw. God was working through Joseph to do this: the plan involved Joseph becoming known as a dream interpreter, though he only has to pull that job one more time.

Sermons and literature abound about the ideas of the above. When I next preach this section, I'll hit many similar points about faithfulness and honesty and keeping your word.

This is not that sermon. Let's look at something else.

Take a quick look at Genesis 40:20. Go ahead, hover over the hyperlink or look it up in your Bible. What does that say?

It says that the third day, when Pharaoh pardoned the cupbearer but executed the baker, was Pharaoh's birthday. This was, apparently, Pharaoh's idea of a good time. Let's play with the lives and deaths of little people, just for fun. After all, he was the all-powerful potentate and there was no real balance on his power.

Moreover, look back at Genesis 40:1-2. What offense had these two committed? Honestly, we just cannot say. Some scholars suggest that the more important fact is that they did something to deserve imprisonment contrasted with Joseph's innocence. However, there's no indication just what they did.

Pharaohs, though, are not renowned in most histories as having been lighthearted. The idea that these two men caused some "offense" or "offended Pharaoh" could simply be that they did not bow deep enough. Perhaps they critiqued one of Pharaoh's other sycophants. It's impossible to say.

Let's look at a possible scenario, though:

The chief baker and the chief cupbearer were likely not in hereditary jobs. That is, while their families may have served at the court, it would have still taken some time and skill to attain those specific roles. Imagine the effort put forth to get where they were. As in any career, there was possibly some intrigue involved, some favors traded, all to rise to the pinnacle of the profession.

Then one day it all falls apart. Likely not at all intentionally and very likely unexpectedly the two of them fall from grace and straight into prison. Within months, one is restored and one is dead. The chief cupbearer's life had to feel a little different after this, don't you think?

Consider all that had gone on to gain the favor of Pharaoh, to attain that position. For one man it ended up costing him his life, and the other possibly spent his remaining years terrified of what would happen.

All to please a man who felt that his kind of party was one where a man is executed and his body hung up for the birds to eat.

So, as you consider what you would do for the approval of a boss, a government, or the world at large, ask yourself: Is this your kind of party?

As Christian people, we should ask ourselves: Is this our kind of party?

I know this: it's not my kind of party.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Book Review: Invitation to Biblical Interpretation

Today's Book comes from Kregel Publishers. They graciously provided me a free book both to review and drop on my foot. Believe me, read it and don't drop it on your foot.

Today's Book is Invitation to Biblical Interpretation by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson. It's part of Kregel Publishers' Invitation to Theological Studies Series.

Here it is:

Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology (Invitation to Theological Studies Series)

The Bible is a fascinating and wonderful book to read. As a Christian, I would argue that the single most important book to read and understand is the Bible. If the Bible is accurate, then eternity itself rests within the pages of that one book.

The Bible, though, is not a book written in 21st century America. It's not even originally written in English. Most scholars agree that the bulk of biblical material was written down no less than 1800 years ago, and some scholars will push that back to nearly 2000 years, with the oldest parts being nearly 3500 years old.

The resulting book is not as clear and simple as we'd like it to be, and there is a need to learn to grapple with drawing the meaning from the text. To do so requires understanding the background behind the text, the purpose for which it was written, the reason it was written, and how it fits into the overall scope of the whole Bible.

That is Köstenberger and Patterson's effort in this book. First off, understand that this is primarily a textbook, not a read-in-a-night book. It is primarily geared toward those in the academic world. For a textbook, it is an excellent entry into the field of Biblical Interpretation. I would consider as one of the top two that I have read, and I've had to read three for various classes and have read a few others. The other text I rate highly has an unfair advantage, as it was written by former professors and I can fill in the gaps of the book with remembered lectures.

However, this book is not limited to the classroom for its usefulness. Rather, I would suggest that it has value for any person interested in a serious study of the Bible. There are references in the book to various aspects of Greek and Hebrew language that prior study helps to clarify, but overall these references are explained clearly.

Also, the authors take time to establish the basic reasons for studying the Bible well and make no effort to hide their conservative viewpoint. Köstenberger and Patterson both hold that there is an intended, divine meaning in the text and present this book to help Christians know how to find that meaning.

I would recommend this work to anyone seeking to understand the Bible better as a complete book

Work hard! Go to Prison! Genesis 39

Having made our our departure for a chapter to see what is happening with Judah back in the land of Canaan, the focus of the story returns to Joseph. Genesis 39 (link) recounts how that turned out for him.

He arrives with the Ishmaelites and is sold to Potiphar. Potiphar is one of the captains of Pharaoh's bodyguard and a man of some wealth. Joseph works hard, God grans him favor in the eyes of Potiphar, and Joseph becomes the manager of all that Potiphar has. The text does not tell us how long this took, but I would say it took less than a lot of time but more than a little bit.

Then Joseph's hard work is rewarded: Potiphar's wife develops an attraction for Joseph. Throughout her persistence, Joseph continually refuses her advances and observes that it would wrong his master and sin against God to do such a thing. One day she catches him alone, attempts to pull him by his garment, and he flees.

Now she has physical evidence and traps him with a lie: he came and attempted to seduce her, perhaps even to assault her. She tells the household first, and then Potiphar hears the story. All that hard work and off to prison Joseph goes.

A brief word here: had the accusation been accurate, then Joseph deserved to be off to prison. Likewise today: it is beyond unfortunate, it is wrong that individuals think their "good service" should allow sexual crimes to be overlooked. Whether that's simple infidelity or something more heinous. And it is beyond incomprehensible that religious leaders like pastors and priests think such things should not apply to them. Competent investigation should always be brought to bear on those accusations. And no, pastor and deacons, you are not competent to investigate. Call DCFS, DHS, the police, or whomever is the state-mandated reporting agency.

For Joseph, however, this imprisonment is an injustice. He has done nothing to deserve it and everything he could to avoid it. It happens anyway.

The world has only gone downstream from Eden more since the time of Joseph and not less: bad things still happen. Innocent people still suffer at the hands of guilty people. There are still rich people who think they own other people.

What do we do?

The same thing we should always do: be faithful and work for the Lord, not man. (Colossians 3:23) Be faithful to the Gospel, to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to your commitment to Him.

Work for the Lord and not for man. When I worked for UPS, Pizza Hut, a funeral home, a Chick-fil-A, and even for churches, the worst days were the days when I thought of myself as working for people. Even with good bosses and great churches, when the goal is to please other people the stress will kill you. Why? Because people are fickle: what was good one day is not good enough the next, and so forth. Any one of you who has ever talked to the same person twice knows this.

Yet the standard of God never changes. His expectation remains the same no matter what: God has no mood shifts. Moreover, God provides the strength to fulfill His expectations.

When we work for God, we trust Him with the rewards. Joseph has no choice now but to view his life that way—he's in prison at the end of the chapter. Yet his actions are no different from the beginning to the end: work hard, do what is right and let God sort out the rest of it.

Isn't that the better plan for us all?

And…in my best Colombo voice: one more thing: I've heard sermons and read books that talk about how "wonderful" Joseph's attitude was in all of this. Just to note: there is nothing in the text that says Joseph was completely happy and cheery through all of these events. What we see are his actions and not his attitude.

You can change your attitude, but you must also, and perhaps even more, change your actions to reflect a godly viewpoint. You have not failed because it was hard to smile while doing the work. You only fail if you do not do the work.

But the smile will probably help.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why did you want to move?: Genesis 38

Just when you think you've seen it all, along comes Genesis 38 (link) to show you just how bad it can get out there. This supports why we read through the whole Bible, though: you need to see that these are the lives of people just like people today. Lives full of shattered hopes and broken promises, but redeemed by the grace of God.

What happens this time around? Judah, the brother who had the idea to sell Joseph and not kill him, moves away from his brothers. We have one brother, Joseph, on his way to Egypt. We have another brother, Judah, separating from the family.

The text does not give us a reason for Judah to move away from his brothers. Perhaps he feels guilt over Joseph; perhaps they pressured him to move away lest he slip up and confess his part of the crime; perhaps they want him away so that if the Midianites who bought Joseph come back, he'll be gone. We just don't know.

What we do know is this: the twelve sons of Jacob are now down to ten in the household. Judah's absence here is not a temporary one—we see him marry and raise his three sons. Two of which are not good. The text gives us that Er was evil so Yahweh took his life: Genesis 38:6. I think there's some importance to using God's covenant, personal name here rather just a reference to "God:" whatever was wrong in the heart and behavior of Er was not about a generic complaint. It had to do with dishonoring the covenant that Yahweh had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

If that was not enough, Onan, Er's younger brother, is also struck down. By the same One, for the same reason. Onan was expected to marry Er's wife, Tamar, and protect and provide for her. Alongside that, their first child would have been counted as Er's offspring rather than Onan's offspring. That child would have received the firstborn's estate from Judah's inheritance—as it stands, Onan will get that estate along with his own.

So, Onan does not want Er to have a son in his name. Some assume that Onan's explicit sin of practicing a primitive birth control is why he was struck dead. I think it was more about the attitude and his unfaithfulness to the covenant and character of God. In no place does Scripture condemn preventative birth control, though we are to see God as the opener and closer of the womb, but that's another discussion.

Judah now sees a pattern: two sons married to Tamar. Two sons dead. He doesn't want to lose the third son, so he refrains from allowing Shelah, his third son, to marry her.

The blame is in the wrong place here. The fault in this case rests on three people, possibly four, and Tamar is not one of them. Er and Onan chose their own unfaithfulness, but does Judah not bear some responsibility? It seems that he has chosen to raise a family separate from the covenant people of God and now finds himself hammered by the consequences of that choice.

Not that being raised in the covenant family is a guarantee: Jacob and Esau have already shown us that fact. However, there's a gap between a guaranteed fail and a guaranteed win and in the gap are decisions that help or hurt your opportunities.

Those who do not even try to start off right are going to fight an uphill battle for years; those who do try are not guaranteed success but it is more likely.

There have been those raised to hate God who He finds and draws to Himself anyway. There have been those raised to love God who run from Him and hate Him.

What choice are you making? To move away from the people of God? True, sometimes God's people are hard to deal with, but are you really better off without them?

I'd say we're not. We need each other, even with our shortcomings and failures. Together, we can raise each other up to follow the Lord God better than each of us individually.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sermon Wrap-up March 4: Nehemiah 8 and 9

Here are the sermon outlines and audio links for March 4:

Morning Audio Link (and alternate) for Nehemiah 8

Evening Audio Link (and alternate) for Nehemiah 9

Morning outline:

Nehemiah 8

The Reading of the Law

Who comes?

1. Men

2. Women

3. All who could understand (most children)

In short, no one is excluded from the Word of God

Explanation by those who knew it...

When?

From "The light until midday:" 6 hours? Really? Very likely: from sunrise until around noon

Where?

In the middle of town

What happened next?

Repentance

Weeping

Rejoicing

The restoration of the Feast of Booths from Leviticus 23

HOW?!

1. Unity of the people

2. Study of the Word

3. Obey what is obvious

4. Repent

5. Rejoice that God has allowed time for repentance!

 

Evening Outline:

Nehemiah 9

Repentance

Remembrance

Results

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dreaming and losing: Genesis 37

Ever think your family doesn't like you?

Try being Joseph. Genesis 37 (link) recounts the first portions of his story, and those portions are just not pretty. You've got parental favoritism, sibling rivalry, snitches, attempted murder, and selling your brother into slavery.

Given the plethora of material in this chapter, it's been the source of many sermons. What should we focus on to make one blog post?

Let's consider this: the beginning of the chapter has Joseph recounting his dreams to his family. He has dreamed that his brothers will bow down to him, that his whole family will bow down to him. Perhaps not exactly: the first dream was that his brothers' sheaves of wheat bowed down and the second that the Sun, Moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him. It's a good guess, though, that these dreams meant what his family took them to stand for.

So, what do his brothers do? Throw him in a well and sell him into slavery. That will bring his dreams to nothing, right?

Wrong.

Yet the path to the fulfillment of those dreams takes a long time and a hard road. Dreams do not always come true easily. There's a good deal about that here, but it develops over the years and chapters. We'll get through more of that.

There is another point here that I think is worth noting, especially in these days.

Take a look at Genesis 37:22 and consider Reuben. Reuben has the best of intentions: he wants to save his brother from death. What he did not consider was Judah in Genesis 37:26 and the greed of his brothers. Reuben's efforts were stymied because he wanted to keep peace, save his brother, and not be noticed in his effort.

And he failed.

Do not underestimate the impact and power that greed holds for people. Waiting to do what is right until a more convenient time for you will put you at risk of failing to get anything done.

When we consider how we live our lives, how we pick our political candidates, and what we do within our churches, we need to remember this. The delays we take in the name of convenience or expediency will be the undoing of our good intentions.

Quit waiting for it to be an easy moment to do what's right and get to it.

Also not to be forgotten is the biblical mention of Alabama: Genesis 37:17. But that's another discussion.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Book Review: The Coming Revolution

Today's Book Review comes from Booksneeze, the blog-reviewer program from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Free book in exchange for a free opinion.

Reading Dr. Richard Lee's book The Coming Revolution was something of an exercise in repetition for me. That's not to say it was bad, but neither was it distinctively good. It fits along the line of being a clearly articulated vision of America as a Christian nation. Lee puts forth his case that America began as nation with a predominantly Christian identity and has lost that identity. He further stands with the idea that the liberty and uniqueness of America will be lost if we do not regain that identity.

His points are well-crafted. I felt he covered the history well regarding the founding era of the United States. Lee does not whitewash that some of the Founders were not strong Christians, though his focus remains on the Christian influence on even those who were Deists and agnostics.

His arguments regarding the history and intention of the nation are good, but they are not quite conclusive. I find myself agreeing with his views of history, but the arguments are likely not strong enough to persuade a strong opponent.

Instead, his arguments should serve the purpose I see him intending, and this is to push a few people off the fence. There are a good number of people who fill the pews of churches Sunday after Sunday that will vote their wallets and not their consciences and this book will hopefully spur them to consider other factors.

The second portion of this work is a collection of suggested action points for concerned readers to take. The actions suggested are good, ethical suggestions that involve working through the established legal processes in this country. For now, that's a good thing: while I agree with Lee's concerns regarding the threat of the recent decades of excessive government, we are not truly at a point in history calling for bloodshed.

To that end, Lee's use of "Revolution" needs a better explanation, and he gives it when he expresses that the true American Revolution came before the War of Revolution. It was a revolution of thoughts and ideas, a revolution of people who refused to be ignored any longer.

With all that said, I found this book worth reading. If you're inclined that America was and always will be better off as a purely secular country, all this will do is make you angry. You'll find the holes to nitpick and find fault with everything.

Yet if you are of the opinion that America can be more than we have become, this book will still make you angry. Angry at our unfulfilled potential. Angry at the growing menace found in the bought and paid-for politicians of all stripes that trade liberty for their power and wealth. Angry that we've sat still while it has happened.

And if we'll all go ahead and follow some of Lee's suggestions, then perhaps we can find a better way forward.

Book provided by publisher in exchange for review.

The Coming Revolution: Signs from America's Past That Signal Our Nation's Future

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...