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Showing posts from May, 2012

Now is not the time to build something: Mark 9

Mark continues to write long and diverse chapters. Here, in Mark 9 (link), we go from the Mount of Transfiguration all the way through casting out a demon, on to having child-like faith and finishing on gouging out your eye to not go to hell. At the very least, there’s a dozen sermons in this chapter. I will not attempt to preach them all right here.Not that I wouldn’t like to. Let’s take a look just one part:The Mount of Transfiguration. This is, by my estimate, the number one moment of “weird” in the earthly ministry of Jesus. The healings are great, the teaching is awesome, and the nature-controlling moments just reinforce the divinity of Christ. The Resurrection is the biggest event in history and the Virgin Birth of Jesus is close alongside.Yet then there’s this story. Peter, James, and John go up on an undisclosed mountain with Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus and his garments become radiant and “exceedingly white” (Mark 9:3, note that “no launderer on earth” could do that). Also, Elijah …

Some things cannot be bought: Exodus 30

Exodus 30 (link) carries us further into the discussion of how to build a mobile sanctuary for the worship of the Almighty God of the Universe. This was not something that had been needed before. In the age of the patriarchs, that time before Jacob and his sons went to Egypt, there were not very many people gathered in one place to worship God. So, a family-size altar was more than adequate.Now, though, one needs a nation-size altar. That gets to be a whole different ballgame. There is certainly something instructive in that thought about how worship method may need to adjust when you go from family gatherings to gathering with more than one family. That's another discussion, though. It will come back to a somewhat more personalized answer. The answer should still be scripturally-bounded, but the variance between people, cultures, and family sizes are remarkable. I will not attempt to solve that here.Instead, let's look at two other portions of this chapter. The first is somet…

May 27 Sermon Wrap-up

Morning Audio Link (alternate link)Evening Audio Link (alternate link)Morning Outline:There's a link here to the text of a sermon preached in 1770 about righteous rulers and the responsibility of God's people to work to make sure that's the kind of rulers they have. 2 Samuel 23:1-7Rev. Samuel Cooke May 30, 1770Web note: http://www.belcherfoundation.org/civil_government.htm2 Samuel 23:1-7I. David's Last Words--     A. Not exactly last, but one of his main closing statements (Psalm 72 is possibly another)     B. He speaks here more as a prophet or preacher than as a kingII. What do we gather?     A. As citizens of the United States of America          1. We have the blessing, thanks to the sacrifices of many others before us, of choosing our own leaders          2. That on its own is worth celebrating and remembering: we do not have to live with someone of ungodly character simply inheriting the power over our lives that the government holds          3. In turn, we need …

Halfway out of the darkness: Mark 8

When reading through the whole Bible, there are places where just a few short verses really pack a lot of meaning. When you get to Mark 8 (link) those verses are Mark 8:22-26, and they summarize the entire chapter.In these verses, Jesus is brought a blind man. One of the quirks of this passage is that the "they" brought a blind man to Jesus. We get no clear answer in trying to answer who "they" is referring to. The closest nominative would be the disciples in the paragraphs before, but that seems unlikely. Instead, my guess it that we're talking about the townspeople of Bethsaida. On track, what we see here is the only story I can remember in the Bible where there is a half-way healing. Jesus first spits on the man's eyes (possibly puts saliva rather than a rude spit) and lays hands on him. He then asks the man if he sees anything.The man sees, but he sees men unclearly, as if they are trees walking about. Likely, this clues us in that he was not born blind…

Political Thoughts for May 25

So, I should be doing an entry in the completely through the Bible series, but I'm not. Instead, I'd like to make a few random observations about life, especially politics, for now.#1: Except for those of you in runoff elections, get your signs and put them away. You can put them back up in October. September if you're going to be nice.#2: All of this discussion of allowing "gay marriage" and I haven't told you directly what I think. I think that Biblical morality would call living that lifestyle sin. In the same way that about a zillion other things that we already allow in America are also a sin. What should we do about it?My opinion is this: we should get the government completely out of the marriage business. Completely. Marriage has been around for a long, long time—there do not seem to be historical records of a time when there was not a family/social institution called "marriage." It has been defined by religion, by culture, and by government…

Put your clothes on! Exodus 29

Crashing ahead through the whole Bible, we come to Exodus 29 (link). This is a description of the process of consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests. There is an extended process of sacrifice followed by step-by-step instructions of how to dress Aaron and sons as priests.As you read through this passage, first of all, try not to be grossed-out by the details of animal sacrifice. This is not a passage to read just before a meal with its descriptions of blood here and fat there and entrails over there. We should find it instructive that the details are important enough to be commanded. If you wanted, you could say this applies that in some portions of life God has given commands down to the minute detail and those are to be followed. Realize this, though: those areas are fewer and farther between than many of us claim.The next thing to note is that atonement had to be made for the priests even though they were chosen by God to be the priests. That calling did not exclude them from si…

Book: The Truth About Grace

One of the joys of the internet is that anybody can write a book review. One of the dangers of the internet is that anybody can write a book review. No matter how unqualified the reviewer may be in comparison to the writer---and today is no exception to that issue. After all, John MacArthur has spent more time preaching through the New Testament than I’ve been alive.Nevertheless, the book was put out there for review, so I’m going to take a look at MacArthur’s The Truth About Grace.First note: this book is part of a series of short books published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. Currently, there are three titles in the series. These are The Truth About: Grace; Forgiveness; and The Lordship of Christ. Each one is taken from previously published material of other books. That actually makes sense: the diversity of MacArthur’s prior books gives snippets about these subjects. Now, those are compressed into small volumes.That is a critical note: these are small volumes. The whole series is, ev…

You can eat that! Mark 7

One of the big questions surrounding Christianity is how we understand the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament, there are various rules for life in the ancient nation of Israel. Those rules range from taxation to morality to dietary laws. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms of Christianity comes from an expectation that Christians would like to impose all of those laws on modern society.And worse still is the danger we do to ourselves when preachers attempt to foist those laws on modern society, as happens far too often. Better explanations and views can be cited regarding morality and the Bible without going to suggesting we start executing people based on Old Testament laws.How do we really reconcile the differences we see in the Old Testament and the New Testament? After all, one core belief of most Christians is that the whole of the Bible is God’s Word, so there is some value, right? And how do we know that we are not picking and choosing only the parts we like as if w…

You're wearing that? Exodus 28

Fashion is one of our culture's biggest events. We have fashion magazines, fashion shows, exult over fashion models, and make appearance the biggest determinant of who should be great in our society. We have shows about what to wear, what not to wear, and how to wear it right.There are even a few people who have created websites about what a pastor ought to wear. Personally, I find that to be one of the greatest wastes of time, money, and effort I've ever heard of. Then again, though, I wear off-the-rack suits and the same ties year-in, year-out and jeans or khakis from the Sam's Club table during the week. Maybe I'm just a slob.After all, one might argue that since Exodus 28 (link) is the list of God's directions regarding the garments and accessories for the High Priest of Israel, then modern pastors probably should have a dress code, right?Let's take the High Priest first and then we'll get back to my ilk of modern American pastors, shall we?The clothing…

May 20 Sermon Wrap-up

Here's the wrap-up on yesterday's services at FBC Almyra. I regret not taping J.E. Hughes' message in the morning, but I didn't get his permission beforehand and did not want to make him uncomfortable.Morning Sermon Audio (alternate link)Evening Sermon Audio(alternate link)We took a few minutes this morning as parent-child dedication. Here is the run-down on what that means:Purpose:I. This does not do anything related to the eternal state of childrenII. This is about parents stating their intentions in the raising of their childrenIII. In some ways, it echoes other public declarations like marriage or baptism: it is both a statement and a plea for helpIV. As this not an explicit Biblical command, it is entirely voluntary and is something we do for those who want it--V. We as a church will stand behind those who strive to follow and honor Christ in their parentingVI. Parents, if you wish to commit to this, then you do so of your own free willVII. Committing to this must…

It is not always easy: Mark 6

One of the difficulties of going through the whole Bible chapter by chapter is that some chapters are just too big. Mark 6 (link) is just such a chapter. We have the diversity of events that range from Jesus teaching at Nazareth to the feeding of the 5,000, to walking on the water, and then back to more teaching and healing.There's a lot here. You should read it more than twice. I would draw your attention to the juxtaposition of the stories of Mark 6:7-13 and Mark 6:14-29. These two stories about one time in which Jesus sent out the Twelve to preach and the execution of John the Baptist are put together.We would tend to think they ought not go together. After all, one is a story of great triumph and the other is the sad tale of a preacher killed for his stand on righteousness. If Jesus is looking to recruit disciples, then only one story should be included here: the story of triumph! The news that not only Jesus but His disciples can heal, drive out demons, and preach would surel…

Don't forget to turn on the lights: Exodus 27

Exodus continues with the instructions for the building of the Tabernacle and its related accoutrements in Exodus 27 (link). It's a bit dry, unless you are in the mood to construct an altar and need directions on how to do so.One of the keys that is present here is that God leaves no detail out as He gives instructions for construction. Not only do we see a specific instruction on how the altar was to be made, but we also see that God commands buckets, basins, firepans, shovels, and all the other utensils necessary for the operation of an altar. The details are not lost on Him.Additionally, one might note that this is a further evidence for the antiquity of this passage: why would a people living in the Greco-Roman world construct this type of passage? They would not need instructions to remember firepans—they would be used to having those. Moreover, in the time after exposure to all the great constructions of Babylon and Persia, it is unlikely that Israel would have constructed a…

When Pigs Fly! Mark 5

Or, perhaps, when pigs angrily stampede after being possessed by demons—but that’s a pretty long title. Either way, that’s the opening story of Mark 5 (link), our next stop going through the whole Bible. Mark 4 had ended with Jesus calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee as He and the disciples are headed across that body of water. The storm had the disciples convinced they would perish, yet Jesus had no concern over the issue. Jesus knew that He had not come to earth to drown nor had He called the Twelve for them to drown this early in the story.After getting over the storm, they come to the region of the Gerasenes. There is some difficulty giving a clear identity to the location: the various textual variants and parallels use “Gerasenes,” “Gadarenes,” and “Gergesenes” interchangeably. Gadara is a bit far from the edge of the Sea of Galilee to be the feet-dry moment that Mark indicates. Instead, it’s likely best identified with the village known in Arabic as Kersa. This name lines up w…

Curtains, I tell you, Curtains! Exodus 26

I continue through the whole Bible, and that leaves us in a place that is somewhat hard to be, though not any harder than Numbers will be at points. I click open my Logos Bible Software and see that I owe you an explanation of Exodus 26 (link). Which is about---Curtains.Well, and a veil, a screen, and some boards and sockets that essentially exist to hold up the curtains. This is where the reader of Exodus is treated to the directions on how to build the Tabernacle. It is within these verses that a couple of themes show forth that bear repeating:1.) In no portion of Scripture do we see worship presented as being strictly defined by how the worshipper wants to do it. While the Tabernacle was constructed from free-will offerings of the people, the form and layout was still commanded by God regarding how the Tabernacle was to be built.The Israelites were free to worship God, but not free to worship God as they desired. They were free to worship as He commanded. This is important to bring…

Take Root! Mark 4

Living in a pluralistic society, one of the interesting things to learn is what other people think of Jesus. For me, I cannot escape the conclusion that the testimony of history and Scripture shows Him to be nothing less than God Incarnate. Over the course of time, I would hope to show why I think that to be true—and why it is that truth is truth, regardless of individual acceptance.However, not everyone thinks this way—and it' is fascinating to see how they react to Him. There are many who will respect at least portions of the Biblical narrative and the teaching of Jesus. They respect His use of parables and the methods and manner of how He taught and lived.It seems odd that one can hold to part of what He taught while rejecting other parts of His teaching, but Mark 4 (link) shows that Jesus Himself expected this to be the case. We see in this parable that He speaks of those who hear His words and the four differing reactions to those words.There are those who reject outright wha…

May 11: Book Recommends and Random Thoughts

I cleaned and semi-organized my office this week and have a final to get ready for, so I just do not have a fully developed Completely Through the Bible post for today. Sorry about that, really, but these things happen. I do have some various things to bring up this week:1. Book Recommendation: I've finished reading A Geography of Time: On Tempo, Culture, and The Pace of Life by Robert Levine. While I'm sure that people with access to social psychology research or with different experiences in the same cultures he mentions will find some faults, overall it was a good read. It is certainly from a secular science perspective: he rates one culture's sense of time as being "just their thing" as being like another culture's honor killings as being "just their thing." That is a peek behind the curtain of how life works if your only ethical base is local culture rather than a transcendent morality. However, the benefits of considering how geography and cul…

God needs bread? Exodus 25

Exodus turns to a construction manual for a few chapters, starting here in Exodus 25 (link). This is not a bad thing to look at as we go through the whole Bible in these posts. One thing we need to understand, overall from these passages, is this truth: God is not to be worshiped as we see best fit. We are to worship as God commands and directs. Taking a quick divergence into politics, that's actually the essence of freedom of religion: that any person is free to worship God (or gods, or not at all) according to what they believe that God (or gods) command. If it were merely about worshiping how we want then freedom of religion should be subordinate to the will of the people and the winds of the times. Yet if it is about freedom to have no human interference in obeying one's God, then the right of human interference is much more restricted. This is what we had in America, yet we are sliding backwards into the lesser freedom. Those who want to define religious freedom in that m…

Abraham Lincoln Quoted by Jesus! Mark 3

Mark records a curious event in his third chapter (link). If you look at Mark 3:25, you'll see that Jesus quotes the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. After all, one of the highlights of the Lincoln years is his famous speech regarding slavery in the United States where he used the phrase that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." This speech was given in 1858 when he accepted the nomination to run against Stephen A. Douglas for Senate, but is still remembered as the defining speech regarding slaveholding in the United States. I recall being taught in school how brilliant and groundbreaking the speech was, how Lincoln had used such wise words to convey his thought. Yet the idea was not original to Lincoln. Rather, it was embedded in Lincoln from his time reading the Bible. Now, I have read varying reports about Lincoln's personal religious beliefs: some place him as a nearly completely committed Christian while others have him somewh…

Close Enough for You? Exodus 24

We return to the Hebrew people, gathered around the Mountain of God, as they are being taught the basics of participation in the covenant of God. The pattern here continues to follow the typical covenant ceremonies that were common to the peoples of the Ancient Near East. These covenant ceremonies would be somewhat analogous to a modern state dinner given to celebrate a treaty of friendship or unity between a great king and a lesser king. One of the key differences here, though, is that this is no agreement between earthly kingdoms.This is a covenant initiated by God to run between God and mankind, starting with the people of Israel. Among archaeology and such works as Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament (yes, I have this book) you can discover non-Biblical examples of these events and discussions. Our example, though, comes from Exodus 24 (link). Let's take this through and see what happens:First is the invitation of grace. Modern Americans generally live in s…