Thursday, July 26, 2012

Insert Lame Title Here: Acts 3

Apologies for the title. I kept trying to find a good idea, and just could not escape the 80s/90s slang of “That’s just lame, dude!” So, all I was finding were lame titles. Ergo, I inserted a lame title. You want super-professional? Buy a book. Bloggers have days they’re a little strange :)

The departure of a leader changes the dynamic of any group. Whether it is as trivial as football or as crucial as a military change-of-command, leadership transitions are moments of great potential. Potential, though, goes either direction. It can be fulfilled with good or with bad.

Acts 3 (link) shows the church in its beginning, going through the opening phases of the leadership transition. Acts 2 was the impressive opening of this new era as the Holy Spirit came in fullness on the believers, the Word was preached and thousands came to the faith. That was a tremendous moment.

Yet what follows that moment? After all, we’ve seen the coach win the first game big and then implode. We’ve had a new preacher come to town and have a great six months and then turn train wreck. And don’t even get me started on Presidents that make great inaugural speeches and then make you question the sanity of millions of Americans.

We can all identify moments where a good first impression has given way to a mess. The question for the church is this: What next?

To answer that question, we turn the page to the next chapter, Acts 3. In that chapter, what do we find?

First, we find PRAYER: Acts 3:1 tells us Peter and John are headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Why is that significant? Because these two are the big dogs in the situation. Peter and John are the leaders of the church.Yet they are not farming out the responsibility to pray either for the church or themselves. You cannot outsource your own person spiritual growth.

Second, we find RISK: Acts 3:1 tells us Peter and John are headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Why is that significant? Because these two are the ones who were closest to Jesus during His trial. If anyone will clearly be identified by the Jewish leadership that opposes the Christian message, it’s these two. Yet they are not going into hiding, but they are publicly going about their business. You cannot live forever away from other eyes.

Third, we find UNITY: Acts 3:1 tells us that Peter and John are headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Why is that significant? Because these two could have been at odds with each other. Take a look back at John 21 and see that Peter and John might not have been on the best of terms at the time. Read through the whole of the Gospels and you will see that John is perhaps more contemplative, Peter more action-oriented. (Perhaps)

Yet these two are going, together, to pray. To pour out before God their concerns and their praises. It is quite difficult to remain at odds with a fellow believer when you are both seeking God in prayer. Why? Because prayer is partly about remembering our place before God and remembering the cost of that place. It’s hard to break unity with those who are convinced that God’s grace is all they have, when you know it’s all you have.

Fourth, we find HABITS: Acts 3:1 tells us Peter and John are headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Why is that significant? Because this means they had a set time in which to detach from other concerns and pray. Do we?

Fifth, we find EFFORT: Acts 3:1 tells us Peter and John are headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Why is that significant? Because they have had to put out the effort to be going up, to be on the move. They could not simply sit comfortably in the Upper Room and wait for the next big thing. It was time to move forward, to go on about the business of life and glorifying God in the midst of it.

Do we live with these five things?

Today’s Nerd Note: There’s an old story that the Pope was showing a monk around the glorious buildings at the Vatican and the two referenced this story. The Pope pointed out that no longer must the church say “Gold and silver have I none” (Acts 3:6) as he showed off the wealth and magnificence of the Apostolic Palace.

The monk replied that, yes, this was true. But also no longer could the church command that “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise and walk!” (Acts 3:6, again).

The story is likely untrue. I have seen a few times, and think it’s in one of my speaking illustration books. It’s been attributed to various popes and monks, and I think even once was attributed to a pope and a monk who did not live at the same time!

However, there is a valid point here: what are we doing now that we have silver and gold? Many of the old missionary biographies were stories of doctors and teachers that went out, not to spread ‘gold and silver’ or even ‘fund development projects’ but went out to heal and to empower through education so that people could walk for themselves and find solutions for themselves.

Neither did they go out to ‘plant churches’ but to make disciples. Those disciples, then, constructed, built, planted, their own churches under the Lordship of Christ.

What are we doing now?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dress for Success: Exodus 39

If you’ve got a fully mobile worship center with all of the implements of sacrifice, what else do you need? You need people to staff it. You need security, maintenance, helpers, teachers, fire-builders, and someone to be in charge of this whole thing. You need, if you’re in Ancient Israel, priests. And one High Priest who is in charge of the whole lot.

The High Priest, though, is not chosen simply for his looks. In fact, he’s going to come from the same family as most of the other priests. He’s not going to stand out based on looks alone. He needs something to identify him.

So, God commanded in Exodus 28 that the High Priest be clothed in a specific way, and I touched on this issue when we looked at that chapter (link to that post). Here in Exodus 39 (link) we see that those instructions were followed.

I do not, personally, have the artistic ability to render a drawing of what this completed outfit would have looked like, but I can tell you this from the description: the High Priest would have looked funny. Funny may not be the appropriate word. Odd would work, or strange, or different--

But if you saw someone walking the streets today in that garb, you’d call the nice folks at Chumley’s Rest Home to come and get him.

The point of the outfit, though, was to signify the priest and to remind both the priest and the people just exactly who the priest was there to serve: the Lord God Almighty. The goal was not to be fashionable or even comfortable, as I don’t think this would have been either cool or relaxing to wear. Aaron, and his sons after him, were there to serve God, not to garner the approval of Sinai Today readers or make the Mid-East Best Dressed List.

Looking down at the end of the chapter, a spot that’s often easy to miss when the first parts are so detail-oriented, we see how the construction narrative finishes up. Moses inspects the work, pronounces that it has been done correctly, and blesses the workers.

What do we take from this?

First: Just because you are trustworthy does not make you above inspection. Bezalel and Oholiab were named explicitly by God to handle the work. Moses double-checks them anyway. It was necessary to be obedient to God’s commands and so a verification was helpful. Being willing to be examined.

Second: Admit when other people have done well. This is a hard one for people in leadership, it seems. The people who report to you, they deserve the praise when they do the work properly. Do not withhold approval when the work meets the standards that have been set.

Second (Part B): Set high standards and expect them to be met. Do not set low standards and then express frustration when they are not met. That’s nonsense. Also, do not set high standards and then waffle them away. Hold it. Require it to be redone if necessary.

Third: Bless those who do good work. The idea here conveys that Moses publicly praised the work of the workmen. This was the appropriate response.

Finally: Do not expect to be blessed if you do not do things “just as the Lord had commanded.” That is where the success of the workers of God is: obedience to what has been commanded.

That is how we dress for success as God’s people: through full and total obedience.

Today’s Nerd Note: These items would make for a great archaeological find, but no one can find them. It appears that they are lost to us in the ravages of time and warfare. However, it leads to this question: Would it be appropriate to simply remake the robe, ephod, and other garments simply by following these directions? Or was there something specific about the sources used then that could not be copied now?

And what happened to these things? Was the breastpiece taken as spoils of war, the linen disposed of and the jewels reset? That is entirely possible. Who knows, one of those jewels could be in the Tower of London.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Watch your language! Acts 2

All of Scripture is God-breathed and correct, and it is all useful for the purposes God has given it to us for (2 Timothy 3:16). This calls us to reject the idea that, for example, the “red-letter” portions of the Bible are more right than other sections. One can see, though, how certain chapters/sections provide critical highlights of the story. If you needed to pick only ten chapters of the Bible to know, to base the start of Christian discipleship on, Acts 2 (link) would need to be on that list.

Why would I count this chapter so important?

This chapter recounts the origin of the church. True, Matthew 16:18 contains Jesus declaration that He will build His church, but that’s where we find the building plans. Here’s where we see Him do the ground breaking.

In the groundbreaking, in the birth of the church here at Pentecost, we see:

1. The church starts off with unified followers of Christ. You do not have a church by yourself. It starts with a gathering of people who are committed to the same thing. In this case, the same person, Jesus Christ.

2. The church has always had preaching. It has not always looked and sounded the same as it does in Baptist churches today, that much is certain. However, a portion of the church’s existence consists in teaching and understanding the life and Resurrection of Jesus. This includes, as you see in Peter’s sermon, explaining and considering what Scripture has already said.

3. The church involves events and actions that the rest of the world will openly mock. In this case, as the power of the Holy Spirit is shown in the gift of tongues (more in a minute) the people question: Are these people drunk? To be drunk was to be foolish—it showed more than just a momentary slip-up, it was a mark of someone not wise and not worth listening to. It is to be expected that we be mocked by the world.

4. The church must remain aware of our history. Peter here presents not only the immediate past events of the crucifixion but goes all the way back into the Old Testament. He must know these events so that he can recount them in his message. We must never intentionally neglect our own history.

5. The church exists solely because of the power of God to establish and sustain it. We come to this passage and we see that the church does not start because Peter and the Apostles are highly persuasive. Rather than that, the church is birthed because God provides the ability to speak in the languages of the people. That is what the gift of tongues is in Acts: functional ability to testify to the work of God in a language not naturally one’s own. The church, if left to its own power, would cease instantaneously. Only through the Holy Spirit can the church exist and sustain.

6. The church must allow new converts to become a part of itself. While it is appropriate to both ensure that a commitment is real and to develop a new fellowship when it is practically impossible to only be one, it is not the goal of the church to make multiple churches just for fun. We ought to strive to build unity and grow together in fellowship rather than separation.

7. The church exists both for its own and to reach out into the world. The disciples are together in unity and out in public spreading the truth. This two-fold nature of our purpose cannot be escaped.

Today’s Nerd Note: My list of 10 Chapters would be: Genesis 3; Exodus 20; Isaiah 53; Psalm 136; Matthew 25; Luke 2, 22; John 1, 20; Acts 2; Romans 8. Obviously, that leaves a lot out. You’d want to start quickly into the next 10. Which of those would you leave out? What would you add?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sermon Wrap Up for July 22

I honestly thought about not posting yesterday’s sermons, because yesterday morning just did not come off as the sermon I thought I should be preaching. Such is life, though, and rather than hide a dud, I’ll admit that some days are not so good.

Morning audio link (alternate here)

Evening audio link (alternate here)

Morning outline:

(The first story is the healing of the Centurion's Servant. I preached the parallel passage in Matthew back in January. ) (Alternate Audio here)

July 22 AM Luke 7:1-17

Worthy or not--who deserves the healing and provision of Jesus?

The miracles:

I. The Centurion: the healing of his slave at from a distance

II. The Widow of Nain: the healing of her son up close

The crowds

I. The Centurion: 

II. The Widow of Nain

Evening Outline:

Note: Much of the general idea of this series is drawn from J. Scott Duvall's Experiencing God's Story of Life and Hope. I would recommend you grab a copy.

Ephesians 4:20-25

Ephesians 4:17-27


I. Came to Christ not through sensuality or greediness


II. Cast off the old self


III. Commit to the truth


IV. Clear away falsehood and anger


V. Cling to the Lord

Becoming a person of truth

Truthfulness with God

Truthfulness with others

Truthfulness with ourselves

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book: The Jesus Scandals

First and foremost: the title of this book is The Jesus Scandals. Not Sandals. Every time I have looked at the title, I have misread the title of this book. It has nothing to do with the shoes of the Lord. Now that we have that cleared up, let’s look at the real book.

The real book, The Jesus Scandals,  is written by David Instone-Brewer. It’s published by Monarch Books and distributed in the United States through Kregel Publishers. Kregel provided the review copy of this book. If you think a free paperback will keep me from giving you an honest opinion, skip the review and move on.

Let’s break this down, short and sweet:

1. The author. David Instone-Brewer is Senior Research Fellow in Rabbinics and the New Testament for the Tyndale House Residential Centre for Biblical Research. That’s a fancy title, but it shows that he is specifically involved in continuing research regarding New Testament issues. Essentially, he has substantial training and exposure to the material. The link above will point you to his biographical information.

2. The overall scope of the book. The goal of the book is to support the trustworthiness of the Gospel by comparing various events to the social conventions of the day. The book is presented in short chapters, all of which are easy to peruse and contemplate. The writing, though done by a senior research fellow, is plainly written. Further, I saw no major concerns with translating the book from English to, well, English. There were few British spellings or idioms that were noticeable and none that interfered with comprehension.

3. Individual sections. The individual sections are well presented. Some of them, such as the discussion of Jesus’ acceptance of children, present similar arguments that I have heard before. The extension of the discussion of children to the Last Supper/Passover was new to me, and I found it intriguing. Other of the scandals mentioned were not familiar to me, and likely will be fresh to anyone without a strong background in that region of history.

4. Total impact. I found this book to be an excellent additional reading on the background of the Gospels in the New Testament. As with any text on religious issues, one’s presuppositions will affect one’s response: this may not convince the strongest of skeptics, but it will provide some fodder for discussion among the interested. Further, it will help strengthen an understanding of just how truly the ministry of Jesus ran counter to the norms of His day, and perhaps will provoke us as His followers to follow in those footsteps.

I would highly recommend this book, The Jesus Scandals.

The Jesus Scandals: Why He Shocked His Contemporaries (and Still Shocks Today)

Scratch that off the list: Exodus 38

After what has seemed like a long, long time we are finally finished with the Tabernacle. That may not be the biggest theological lesson in Exodus 38 (link) but it is still one worth contemplating.

If you go back to the start of the Tabernacle narratives in Exodus 25 and read back through the whole process, you will see that there is a great deal of detail and precision. Many of those details are technical and would be easy to get bogged down in the midst of.

This is not unlike many of the challenges put in front of us as followers of Christ today. The path of obedience is often more complex than we would like it to be. For example, someone determines that the goal of their life is to serve God as a pilot for missionaries. While the obedience goal is quite simple: be a missionary pilot; the path there takes a detailed process to achieve. After all, simply reading the Bible does not qualify one to operate a multi-engine aircraft on instruments at night. You have to learn all of the associated skills.

Too often, though, we get distracted by the details. We would not accept the idea that a physician should get to practice medicine without following the path of study and training. We would not even want someone to build our house that did not know the right end of the hammer to use.

Yet we think too often that following God allows us to skip striving for preparation. We try to cover that with phrases like “God does not want your ability, He wants your availability” to motivate people to commit to things they do not know how to do. That’s not a bad phrase, but for many of us the first step of availability needs to be our being available to develop the necessary skills and discipline to do what God has instructed.

We must not get bogged down, though, in following through with the details that are necessary. You do not need to fill out a lot of checkboxes to be a disciple of Christ or to be a witness to His truth. All you have to be is His follower. Yet from there, we must all begin growing in discipleship, walking with Him day by day to be more like Him.

The details are sometimes slower than we would like, the time does not always seem well spent, but we need to not give up. Keep up working toward the goal you know is necessary to fill what you are called to and for. You will find, in the end, that you are growing to be more like Jesus than you realize.

Have you backed off a difficult goal because the details were too much? Is it possible to recover it and get back going forward?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pick A Lot: Acts 1

Last week, we finished going through Mark as we work completely through the Bible. Now, I’d like to skip Luke and John and go straight to Luke’s second volume, Acts. The longform name is often given as The Acts of the Apostles, but most of us know this book as simply the book of Acts.

Another title I’ve seen a few others and heard a few preachers attach to this book is The Acts of the Holy Spirit. While I can see the point they want to make, that this book is about what happens in the time after the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) and how God works through people in His church, it is still about the people through whom God worked. We’re all about saving the pixels, though, so Acts will be the name I use.

What happens in the first chapter (link)? Initially, you get what reads like a Twitter recap of the Gospel of Luke:

“All that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles He had chosen.” 

That’s a quick reminder of what happens in Luke, and then Luke begins his telling of the apostles carrying out those orders. We see the final command of Christ as He is straightening out the disciples quest for a timeline. He tells them to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit to come and then they will be His witnesses.

While they’re waiting, though, Peter has something for them to do. I had one professor in college that was convinced that Peter was wrong for this: waiting means just that, waiting. I’m not so sure. I see Peter as taking the waiting time as the time to fix a few issues in-house. I think his process starts right, but I think his end-result might be mistaken.

A quick aside: I firmly affirm that the Bible contains no mistakes in the record of what happened. However, just because an event is accurately, infallibly recorded does not make the event a good thing. David’s sins with Bathsheba (2 Samuel) are not recorded as an example to follow, likewise with many sins. Just because an action is taken by a praiseworthy individual does not exclude that action from consideration or critique.

Oh, and neither am I saying that in the moment that I would make a better decision. I may disagree with Peter’s outcome, but he’s still likely holier and better than me. Any knucklehead can armchair quarterback, and occasionally there is useful information presented. Had I been in Peter’s place, I don’t know that I would have quit fishing.

Peter remembers, as they sit in the upper room, a few of his Psalms. As he considers the passages from Psalm 69 and Psalm 109, he reaches this conclusion: Judas has fallen from the company and needs to be replaced. So far, so good. We also see him using Old Testament Scripture to guide his decision making. That’s also a good thing.

Peter then wisely puts forward that the replacement for Judas should be someone who had been with the company of disciples the same length of time. This allows the replacement to be an equal witness to all of the life of Christ (from the Baptism to the Ascension) alongside the original Apostles. They find that Joseph Barsabbas Justus and Matthias were the two men present in the upper room who had been with them that whole time.

So, how do you choose between the two? The early church at this point drops back to the method of drawing lots. Essentially, this allocated a random element to a decision, and that randomness was seen as God showing His decision. (1 Chronicles 26, 1 Samuel 14 both show mention of the idea.)

This method of drawing lots was intended to allow God to make the final decision. Those present even pray that God would make Himself clear through the decision. Now, the lot-drawing will certainly be clear: only one of the two will have the lot marked. Clarity won’t be an issue.

Here is what happens: Matthias ends up the one chosen. Now, from a strictly Bible perspective, we don’t know much of the future of either of these two. In fact, Luke spends most of Acts on a guy named Paul who is not even mentioned here.

What do I think? I think Peter made the right suggestion when he brought up replacing the lost Apostle. I think, though, that he did not grasp the change that was coming in how the church would act. Keep in mind, he’s one of the crowd that just asked Jesus if now was the time to bring the kingdom back. They are still a little off-center.

The idea of a one-to-one replacement of Apostles was not where the church was headed at this point. The Holy Spirit is coming, and the power of God is spreading. The initial Apostles have a special place in the guiding and growth of the infant church, but as you leaf through Acts you see Paul, Steven, James, Luke, Timothy, Barnabas, Silas---none of these are part of the Twelve.

Peter was right to not want to lose ground by leaving an empty chair, but is it possible that he should have added a chair? One for both Matthias and Justus? The company of the committed is growing in the book of Acts. In Acts 1 it may remain stagnant, but the growth explodes from Acts 2 to Acts 28. This is the model of what, perhaps, should have happened.

It’s not, though, is it? It is possible that this chapter, the last chapter before the Pentecostal Outpouring of the Spirit, fits more with Old Testament method than with New Covenant method and that God revealed Himself one more time through lots. Even so, though, it is not instructive for us: as Believers we have the Spirit. We make decisions based on the Word of God, Bible-derived wisdom, and the guidance of the Spirit. Not by picking lots anymore…

Question: How have you made important decisions? Do you strive to seek the Word of God or do you default to a hope that random life will show God’s will?

Today’s Nerd Notes:

1. What happened to Judas Iscariot? Did he hang himself or fall in a field? Or what about the classic “hanged himself over a field and fell into and burst open?” It’s also possible that he hanged himself and his body was tossed into a field. This is one of those spots that people pick apart as a contradiction. It’s really not that difficult to consider a scenario where there is no contradiction, just differing points of view.

2. Acts has chapters numbered 1 through 28. Without being excessively whiny, God stopped there. It seems a bit flashy to claim to be picking up where He left off, especially some 2000 years later.

3. Theophilus: pick up three different books on Luke-Acts and you’ll probably get at least two views on Theophilus, if not three. One is that Theophilus is just the guy’s name, nothing more. Another is that it is a symbolic name for any “Friend of God,” which the name means. A third posits that it’s a code word used for a high-ranking Roman who wanted to know about Jesus but could not be called by his real name. The first two are the more plausible, with the first being the best option.

4. I know I did not do this, but you should read Luke and then Acts. They go together well. Almost like they were a two-part set.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sermon Recap from July 15

The summer oddness continues, with us not having a fully structured evening service again this week. So, I’ve got the morning sermon and a brief recap on the evening devotional.

Morning Audio is here (Alternate Here)

Outline:

July 15 AM Luke 6:46-49

Foundations!

More than 3/4 of Americans (approximately 78%, Gallup Poll reported here) claim to be Christians. That's a huge number: it would mean that 225 million Americans were Christians.


Yet when we look at American society, do we see a country that is actually acting like 225 million of its residents are Christians?



I. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian.

     How can this be? 

II. Far too many people think that their words alone will be enough to count themselves believers

     Words alone are not enough: Confession and belief are in Romans 10:9 and we must consider the situation of those confessing in that day. Their confession would cost them something

III. Action must follow belief:

     The houses Jesus speaks of: these are the houses of our life. Applications of houses:

     1. The Believer who acts as much as possible: those things not supported by the foundation will be destroyed

     2. The Believer who does not act much in life, but has a foundation: a wreck but eternally secure

     3. The unbeliever who thinks he is doing well, but has never actually trusted: pretty in life but wrecked in eternity

     4. The unbeliever who does nothing: nothing now, nothing then.

IV. Do we want to be ruined?

V. We cannot allow salvation by grace to make us believe that we are supposed to spiritual couchians. being a Christian is to strive to be like Christ.

 

Evening sermon: we recapped the lessons from Rec Camp. Hey, if it’s good to teach the kids, it’s good to remind the adults, right?

 

I. Genesis 1:27 reminds us that God made us. While I would acknowledge that there may be more to understanding in Genesis 1 than some websites might have us think, I absolutely believe that humanity is the result of the special creation of God.

II. John 3:16 reminds us that God loves us.

III. Romans 12:2 reminds us that God has a plan for us. That plan is drawn from the Word of God and is to be made like Christ.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Much Better Day: Mark 16

Today is Friday the 13th, which many people take as a bad omen. For me, while there is some measure of historical significance to why we tend to think Friday the 13ths are a bad day, the day itself? Not scary. Most superstition falls under the category of self-fulfilling prophecy. You expect bad things to happen, then bad things happen.

I’d need to find and cite a sociologist or psychologist to prove that to you as a fact, but that’s not my point here. My point is this: whatever you think of today, whether you expect it to be good or not good, there has been a much better day. It was better both objectively and subjectively.

Put yourself in the sandals of those who had followed the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. They have followed and then watched Him be executed at the hands of the Roman government. That Friday was one of the worst days that they could have experienced. Many had left everything and suffered rejection by their culture to follow Jesus, and He was now dead.

That’s just their feelings. That’s what made that Friday a subjectively bad day. It was an objectively bad day because all of the tendencies of human nature were on display. In the Jewish leaders, we see the willingness to do whatever it took to retain power. In the crowd, the herd mentality is demonstrated while the crowd easily condemns a known innocent man. In Pilate, the cowardice to stand for right. In crucifixion the sheer willingness of man being inhuman in his treatment of his fellow man. All of the worst of who we are as people was on display that Friday.

If Mark ended there, at the end of Mark 15, showing the downside of giving up everything to follow Jesus. Showing the destructive nature of humanity. Showing the absolute horror of sin. If Mark had stopped there, life would be tragic.

Yet Mark does not stop there. Mark 16 (link) comes along next. Think about that day:

First, for the followers of Jesus, it must have been a relief. I actually think that may have been one of the first emotional reactions to the Resurrection. Yes, relief. More even than astonishment: the followers of Jesus had seen the dead live again before. This time it is greater, of course, because no one but Jesus could raise the dead, so His Resurrection was independent of other actors.

Yet they would have been relieved that what they had been doing was not in vain. I think the evidence shows they did not fully understand what had happened, but they knew it was a better day for them, personally.

Objectively speaking, it was a great day. Why? All of those evils that showed the evidence of mankind’s fallen nature? Each wrong suffered by Jesus was not enough to keep Him dead. He took all the sin that we could offer and still, His righteousness and power raised Him from the dead.

That puts us in this position: we can be forgiven. Sin was not able to overpower God. Light is stronger than darkness, truth greater than lies—all of this reality breaks through on this one day. Death is not co-equal with life, but is subject to the power of God.

If that’s not a better day, I do not know what is. Whatever issues of bad luck you suppose today, recognize that there is a great day in the past you need to remember. The Resurrection was that day, and because of that day, every day you live should be drawing closer to the God who saved you from sin and makes you righteous in His sight.

Today’s Nerd Note: It’s the end of Mark. You can’t skip all those italicized sections in modern Bibles about the ending of Mark in the Nerd Note, now can you?

Here’s the deal: we do not have Mark’s original written work. Instead, we have thousands of copies and fragmentary copies. The science of determining what Mark originally wrote is called “Textual Criticism.” I wish it had a better name than “Criticism” but that’s what we have.

The original work Mark wrote is called an “autograph.” Not because he signed it, but because it is “self-written” which is essentially the meaning of autograph. That work is lost to us, unless it is blended in with a stack of papyri in a museum but we don’t know it is what it is.

In pre-printing press times, writings were generally copied by hand and circulated. There is a general historic understanding that many times in the Christian world in those first centuries, when a copy of a writing came into an area, it would be copied by the local Christians. If they could afford to do so and if they had time before the courier moved on with the writing. In time, one ends up with a great many copies of the original text. Those copies are copied, and then copied, and then…(you get the point.)

While the people doing the copying would have been careful, haste and weathering of the source would have raised issues. Further, what we have now is based on what has survived and been examined. The term for that is extant. That means "surviving and known.” The extant manuscripts cluster into groups, typically showing their original source locations.

As Christianity spread, manuscript clusters developed in various places. Most of the extant manuscripts we have are from Egypt because the climate lends itself toward their survival. However, there are other areas where manuscripts survive.

The textual critic then has to take those extant manuscripts and compare them. Two major factors weigh on which text goes forward to be used in a Bible translation: age and number. The age is how old the reading is—typically, a reading that is known from the 2nd century will be favored over one that only ages to the 10th century. It is closer in age to the original and so more likely to be correct.

The second is number: how many manuscripts exist with a reading? The high number gives the likelihood that the reading was common and widespread, favored by those who knew it. Imagine if we had the previous generation of Baptists recreate hymns: the majority would get Victory in Jesus right. If it was wrong, they would correct it and trash the incorrect copies.

Mark’s ending puts these two factors in conflict: the older texts leave off Mark 16:9-20, while more texts have Mark 16:9-20. It is fairly well accepted that Mark should not end with verse 8, but how should it have ended?

The so-called “Longer Ending” fits with both the Matthew account of the Resurrection and the experience of the Apostles and early church in terms of attesting miracles to their message. It may not have been part of Mark’s original writing, but it does not conflict with any point of Scripture and so does no harm to be there.

Unless, of course, you misinterpret Mark 16:17-18 to be instruction rather than observation and go picking up deadly snakes and drinking poison on purpose. That will get you killed most of the time.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Load it up: Exodus37

The construction narrative continues in Exodus 37 (link) as we see Bezalel and Oholiab working through the Tabernacle instructions. They construct in this passage: the Ark of the Covenant; the table for showbread; utensils for it; a lampstand; the altar; the anointing oil and the incense. While the text only names Bezalel in the passage, it is likely that he made these items in the same sense that a general contractor builds a house: who is in charge? Bezalel is the general contractor on this project, it appears.

These passages are ripe, as I have said before, for “over-allegorization” where we try and make the number of loops or the number of inches in a cubit relevant to our life or emblematic for Christ. At the risk of getting too far down that path, I want to highlight the key repeating features of all of these items:

1. Gold. There is no way to read this passage without seeing that a large amount of gold goes into this construction project. Gold is one of the most well-known precious metals on earth. There are very few, if any cultures, that acknowledge material wealth that do not find gold valuable. It stays shiny, does not tarnish, and there is a clearly limited supply of it on this planet.

It is one of the hard currencies used by multiple nations for international exchange. It’s recommended by conspiracy nuts and pessimists in preparation for the coming breakdown of society. Personally I recommend brass and lead over gold for that possibility, but that’s another post.

The thing about using gold is that there’s no new gold to be had. You can find more, hopefully, but it’s not something you can manufacture. By using gold in the Tabernacle, it is removed from being used by the people, ever. There is a sense of permanent sacrifice involved.

2. The rings for the poles. It’s been said often that one of the key features of the Tabernacle is mobility. While the people are headed toward the land which God has promised them, He commands His sanctuary as a mobile dwelling. Not only is it a tent, but everything big has carry poles. When you get into duties of the Levites, you find that there are people whose responsibility it is to arrange items on the table then cover the table, so that it can be carried. The whole thing is mobile.

There’s no reason for it to be mobile. No logical reason, at least. If you look at what the Israelites are expecting at this stage of Exodus, they do not expect to be mobile for long. They are headed for the Promised Land and planning to conquer it and occupy it quickly. Not as the 99% or the 1% but as the 100%, with no Canaanites left behind when this goes down.

Yet this reinforces one of the concepts that Scripture teaches about God: He knows what we do not know. For God, the future is as clear as the present and the past. He is not going to be surprised a little further down the road when the people of Israel waffle about His provision and refuse to take the Promised Land. He is never, actually, surprised by anything.

His grace and provision drifts into places that we cannot imagine. Here we see God provide even before the sins of the people for them to have the visible evidence of His presence throughout the consequences of their sin.

Now, what do we do with this information?

With the first: Our worship ought to be golden. While I believe that as a Christian every aspect of my life belongs to God, there are certain things that are more valuable than others. Those are the things of which I have a limited supply, of which I can make no more than I already have. For example, I have 168 hours in a week. I cannot make more hours. While I believe that my actions affect the days of my life, I also know that the terminal point of my life is clearly defined by the sovereignty of God.

In that respect, how I spent my hours and days is more important than how I spend my money. More money can usually be made---there are exceptions, but generally, material can be added up and added in as time goes by. More hours cannot be created. Whether or not I spend that time serving God with it is what matters most.

Now, in American Christianity we tend to conflate worship with a specific gathering at church. They are not the same thing. If we do not worship with the rest of our hours, the hour at a designated place and time will not be worship either.

With the second: Our commitment to God includes a recognition that He knows what we do not. That’s an important starting point. There are some attempts in theology that attempt to protect the free will of man by making God not aware of the future or that God simply knows all possible futures and is waiting to see which ones we choose. This view, to my reading, violates the general sweep of Scripture and this passage specifically.

We walk as disciples of Christ with this knowledge and awareness. We need to grasp that various times of preparation in our life are brought by God because of the events He knows will happen. That does not mean we always embrace those moments, but we do take the opportunities for growth as they arise. Even when we do not know what they are for…

Today’s Nerd Note: Yikes. It’s hard to isolate something here. Well, isolate and be brief in discussing. What remains fascinating to me is this question: what happened to all of these implements over the course of history? There is no definite record of their existence past the fall of the Temple in 587-586 BC, and it’s possible that they were not present even at that time. At the construction of the Temple, it seems possible that new implements would have been made.

So, where are these? These could be hidden somewhere, they could be melted, there is just no clear answer…but I remain curious.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Not so good to be the King: Mark 15

We are one chapter short of finishing the Gospel of Mark. Since each one of the gospels gives an account of the whole earthly life of Christ, that means we’re in a pretty dark place. Mark 15 (link) gives us the narrative account of Jesus’ trial at the hands of Roman authorities and His crucifixion and burial.

This chapter is ripe for the picking when we consider injustice in this world. Here are a few examples:

1. Mark 15:7 tells us that Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in an insurrection. Not that he’s specifically guilty, but the round up of the usual suspects had gotten him a spot due for execution. The other Gospel accounts do find the Barabbas was likely guilty of something, but Mark’s account makes one wonder: Why is he in prison, really? Prison is a place for the proven guilty—not a storehouse for the unwanted.

2. Mark 15:6 give a hint why Pilate may have been okay with rounding up more than the necessarily guilty: every year he releases at least one prisoner at the request of the crowd. Guilty, innocent, political prisoner—it apparently does not matter. This is not justice: the guilty going free or the innocent sitting in chains to watch it happen. This leads to a capricious system: Pilate could ensure that he executed anyone he didn’t want out the day before. Just in case, you know, the crowd wanted that person.

3. Mark 15:10 clues us in about the system: it’s not about guilt or innocence anyway. It’s about politics. And if that does not show it, then Mark 15:15 shows it. Justice is perverted when truth is not the goal—if power and control is the end-goal, then it is not about justice.

Yet in the midst of this, we have not considered the greatest injustice present in the situation. God is the author of life, the sustainer of the universe—these things we find throughout Scripture. Pilate is not able to walk from one end of the Praetorium to the other without the providence of God enabling it. Yet he sits, in judgment, determining the fate of Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Himself.

Really?

Yes, really.

Here sits a man in judgment of his Maker. The idea that Pilate or the Sanhedrin or Caesar himself would have the ability to judge whether or not God Almighty is guilty of something staggers to the top of human arrogance. Pilate is nearly legendary for this even to the modern age: a man who thought it his place to judge God.

Certainly many of us would think that we would do no such thing, so let’s visit the other three examples of injustice and consider our actions in regards to these first:

1. Ever pulled out the extra-wide paint roller to paint that “guilty” mark on people? Where you have assumed that they were guilty simply because of who their parents were or where they were born? Many of us think we’re far too sophisticated for that, but we’re really not, unfortunately. We show a preference for those whose backgrounds are similar to ours and an awe for some whose backgrounds appear grander. Else why do we consider the election of Bill Clinton an anomaly when he graduated from the University of Arkansas? Even around here, there’s almost a need to apologize and point out his Rhodes Scholar days.

Folks, we may not quite auto-judge a skin color like once happened, but we are often as guilty of pre-judging someone as guilty as the Romans had done here. If you think that’s not true, compare the reaction the next time someone in a turban or kaffiyeh leaves a car running by a tall building and the next time you do.

2. We also have this tendency to want justice to roll in our favor. If the person was probably guilty but not “one of us” then we’d just as soon leave them locked up or fired or blacklisted. On the other hand, if there’s the possibility of any doubt, if maybe aliens did it or were responsible and the person is “one of us” then we want grace or a little pardon, notwithstanding the circumstances.

Oftentimes, we are worse about this with non-legal crimes rather than with legal issues. We don’t want anyone, including friends, to get away with murder under any circumstances. But we’ll let our allies commit a little character assassination while ripping our opponents for the slightest impugning of character. When our candidate does it, it’s just politics, but let the other guy do it and it’s dirty pool. Sure, when my theological camp lobs arrows, we’re justified but when theirs does it, their very salvation is in question.

3. Then there’s power and control. Too much of our lives are about gaining and keeping those two things. As Christians, our lives are to be about God’s truth: not about our own power or control. The last thing we should be seeking is to control anyone else. We should seek to first control ourselves to the glory of God and then to speak, act, and lovingly demonstrate what being controlled by God looks like. Then, let God deal with others.

Finally, we come back to sitting in judgment of God. We don’t do that, right? We don’t determine that we do not like His ways and so find loopholes around them, do we? We don’t determine that we do not like His holiness, His righteousness, His truth, or His grace and so try to explain these attributes into nothingness, do we?

Most of us as Christians would never admit that we do such a thing. We’d never really consciously do it. Yet we do it just the same. We apologize for the hard truths of Scripture. We keep God’s grace and love to ourselves. We judge that our way is better than His.

In this, we’re no better than Pilate.

Yet Jesus died for sinners like us. Let us recognize the grace inherent in that truth and commit ourselves ever forward to live for Him.

Today’s Nerd Note: Not very nerdy, but keep in mind that Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15:21) was likely a dark-skinned North African man. After all, he’s from North Africa. So, anyone who prefers to judge by skin color alone, keep in mind that the soldiers with the nails likely looked more like Europeans and the man pressed into service to carry the Cross of Christ was an African.

Also, while I just have not had time to seek it out today, the reference to Simon as father of Alexander and Rufus likely indicates that these two young men became important in the church in the years ahead. Mark is likely writing about 30 years after this happens, so these could be leaders in the church. We see in church history that North Africa is an important center of Christianity for the first 600 years. It is possible that Simon, Alexander, and Rufus were involved in the opening stages of that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When you’ve got enough, STOP! Exodus 36

Continuing through the whole Bible, albeit slowly through the whole Bible, we come to Exodus 36 (link). This chapter begins the actual process of building and furnishing the Tabernacle. Prior to this point, we’ve just had instructions given by God and received by Moses. The idea was shared in Exodus 35 and the people began to give freely to fund and furnish, and here at the beginning of Exodus 36 the instructions are given to Bezalel and Oholiab.

The chapter concludes with a recounting of how the craftsmen, both named and unnamed, are following the directions God had given for the Tabernacle. Before we get there we see something else. We see in Exodus 36:5-7 that the people have brought, even before the start, more than enough material to complete the whole project. There was enough provision for the project, with some excess, and the people had to be restrained, held back, from giving any more.

Now, I could latch on to this, wrench it from its context, and point out how it would be much better if we would give so much that our churches, missions, missionaries, and other projects had to say “We have more than we’ll ever use! Stop giving.” That would be great, truly, although if we have more money than the missionaries we have can use to spread the Gospel, then we need more missionaries. In an ideal world, of course, that would be the state of giving by God’s people to handle the earthly needs of God’s people. Yet to get there from here requires a bigger leap than I will make. I think we could find much of that in Scripture as a whole, that the body ought to meet the needs of its members, but that’s in Acts, not Exodus. We’re not Old Testament Israel in the church today.

Instead, let us take a good look into the principle of what happens here and see just what we might do with it. This requires a little bit of zooming out and taking in more than just this chapter.

First, recall that for the past several chapters God has been giving Moses the exact designs of the Tabernacle. Not rough estimates, not a few good ideas, but precision. Down to the cubit precision, and I don’t doubt that God pointed out what type of cubit He had in mind as well. This is important for at least these two reasons: 1) This establishes that the Tabernacle is not made by human imagination; 2) There is no further parallel in modern times. Seriously. Without attempting to make a complete cessationist case, I do not think God inspires building plans today as He directly inspired the Tabernacle plans then.

Second, consider how the Israelites have acquired their wealth. They were in Egypt dealing with oppression. More than just slight oppression, rather an oppression that saw them powerless to resist Pharaoh’s efforts at an early genocide. When they left, though, God made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward them (Exodus 11:2-3) and the Egpytians not only threw the people of Israel out, they essentially bribed them to go! This is where the gold and other fineries have come from. Also, there have been a few battles which Israel has fought and won, and there is some spoil here. Yet this is not inherited wealth. It’s the wealth newly acquired by newly freed people.

Third, think about what the people had seen in Egypt. To this day, we are able to look back at some of the temples and worship centers of the Egyptians and see the wealth that was lavished on these structures. We see these edifices after an additional 3500 years of wear and tear, while the Israelites had seen them much closer to new. Although, admittedly, the Pyramids were done when Joseph came to town. They had seen the manner in which the Pharaohs and the priests of Egypt had worshipped their gods, and how every offering given was used in some manner—no one was stopped from giving. If more came, more was used.

Bearing these three considerations in mind, we see a few items worth applying in our time:

1) When God has spoken, He is not to be left short in what He has commanded. Most of us are very much ok with that statement. Additionally, though, is this: If God has commanded, then do not exceed His command either. Even if it looks easy. Bezalel and Oholiab could have decided to tack on a little something extra to the Tabernacle. That was not acceptable: God had commanded what He desired.

With this in mind: what God has commanded is enough. If He has commanded that we make disciples, then that is His command. Not that we make disciples that are just like us or that follow our politics, but that we make disciples of Him.

2) All of us are born with an inheritance from Adam and Eve. That inheritance is more than a simple inclination that can be resisted, it is a dead spiritual nature that cannot respond to God without God’s grace. Yet those who call themselves Christian Believers have received a newfound wealth that is greater than gold. It is life. We ought to be rapidly generous to give back from that life to honor the God who gave it. The Israelites knew God had brought them the wealth, for what they had inherited was oppression and now they had wealth and freedom. So do we.

With this in mind: what God has given you is not just for you. It is for using to point people to Him, to draw people before the Cross and the Empty Tomb. Your freedom, your life in Christ, is there to live and bring the spiritually dead before the One who raises the dead.

3) Excess and waste does not equal worship. I can imagine a Baptist preacher leading a building project that hits 200% funded. He’ll start looking for ways to spend that money, to pour it out on this pet project or that one. Even if there is no valid reason for it, we’ll spend the money just so that we spend it. While we are not Old Testament Israel, I think there is a valid principle here: do not exceed just for the sake of excess. That’s what the Egyptians did.

With this in mind: what God provides should be enough, but it is not provided so that we can compare His followers with the world’s followers, His stuff with the world’s stuff. The deepest basic truth of our faith is that the years we have here and the things we see here are not all there is. The riches of God are His grace and mercy, not the stuff that decays.

Today’s Nerd Note:

Wow, that post went long and you still want some nerd stuff? I’ll give you something brief to chew on.

Something that I find interesting and nerd-related is this: we have, in the Old Testament, very precise directions for the construction of the Tabernacle. In truth, you could go with the average standard cubit, pick up some porpoise skins at the Hobby Lobby, and build your own Tabernacle. You do not need a drawing, the word-picture plans are enough.

Yet we find nowhere in history, or at least I find nowhere, that anyone built another Tabernacle. Even among the oral histories of some of the people that are distantly related to Israel, that have possible ancestries in the Assyrian Deportation or the Babylonian Exile, they did not build Tabernacles. The Jews in Egypt built a Temple, the Lemba (possibly related to escaped/fleeing Priests and Levites) built stone structures. No one copies and builds a Tabernacle. I could be wrong about this, but I don’t find it.

I think it comes from a couple of sources. The first is that man likes to build worship centers that are comforting, and tents are not comforting. No man who lives in a house would choose to permanently worship in a tent. He would either feel it insulting to the one he worships or insulting to himself.

The second is that we like the idea of buildings that will contain our gods. We’re not real fond of the idea that God might go somewhere and we would have to adjust to follow. So we build no new tents for worship.

And if you want to get real nerdy: why are there no drawings for these instructions? For a people that were supposedly primarily oral and not written, would not a drawing and some labels be better than a detailed word-picture? We might need to acknowledge the Israelites were more advanced than we tend to think they were.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sermon Wrap Up

Since we started Rec Camp, our church’s version of Vacation Bible School, Sunday night, there is no Sunday night sermon. Here is the Sunday Morning Sermon:

Audio Link (Alternate Audio Link)

Outline:

Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

So God created human beings in His own image.

In the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

God created man ain His own image, in the image of God He created him; bmale and female He created them. 1

-------------------------

John 3:16 (NIV)

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For God so aloved the world, that He bgave His 1conly begotten Son, that whoever dbelieves in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.1

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind He will find acceptable. This truly the way to worship Him.

Therefore aI urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to bpresent your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, 1acceptable to God, which is your 2spiritual service of worship.

    2   And do not a be conformed to bthis 1world, but be transformed by the crenewing of your mind, so that you may 2dprove what the will of God is, that which is good and 3acceptable and perfect. 1

---

Things to keep in mind:

I. God made you: while the world we have is marred by sin, it is true that God made you. Wonder why you're here? Ask Him.

II. God loves you: Gave His one and only Son. That's not fluffy talk, that is the truth of the depth of His love

III. God has a plan for you: that you will worship Him by following Him.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Book: Legacy Road

Today, I’d like to take a look at a novel from Graham Garrison titled Legacy Road. It’s published by Kregel Publishers, and the company provided the book free for this review. If you’d reather not read on since it’s a freebie review, then you’ve been warned.

The novel Legacy Road is a story of redemption and regret, of love and loss, and it’s based down in Georgia. Slightly more than a decade ago, I lived in Georgia, and I still live in the rural South, just in Arkansas now. This novel reads much like the stories that are told around here and that I heard in my Georgia days.

What do I mean by that? Garrison, the author, presents the reader with people that you don’t quite know at the beginning, and then across the pages you get most of their backstory as you also get the story the book intends to tell. As a person used to hearing people presents stories like this, as it takes nearly a year to get a whole story told around here, that is not too disturbing for a book.

Personally, I do prefer books to move a bit faster, but Garrison also does not ramble here for my taste. It follows, as I said, a fairly normal Southern storytelling method “Let me tell you this, oh, I have to also tell you that.”

The other aspect of the book that is similar to our Southern ways is a peculiar imbalance of descriptions. One chapter describes arriving in a small town to examine an old Civil War battle area. The town is sparsely described, barely three sentences. Yet it draws on the small, railroad-side towns that most of us in these here parts are well aware of. For a reader in the urban world, this could be distracting. Or at least inadequate: “How in the world,” you may ask, “can a town be describe as a stop-sign and a post office?”

Drive down one of those state-numbered highways, though, and you’ll see a dozen examples between interstate exits.

The story is good here. The overall thrust of redemption and looking more strongly to your future, no matter what has happened in your past, is a worthwhile message.

The method of telling it, though, will lose some people. I’ll admit it was tough for me to read this book faithfully. The style did not quite grab my attention and demand that I follow-through and finish this book before I started another. It felt more like a “read me when you’ve got time or nothing better to do” book.

I would not call this a must-read, but it’s not a must-avoid either. If you need more spark and excitement, you’ll want to look elsewhere, but it’s a less an excitement book and more of a Saturday afternoon chat.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Message for Today

This may have been the last unanimous act of Congress, but it was a good one if it was:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

  He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

  He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

  He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

  He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

  He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

  He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

  He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

  He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

  He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

  He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

  He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

  He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

  He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

  For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

  For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

  For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

  For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

  For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

  For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

  For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

  For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

  For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

  He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

  He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

  He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

  He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

  He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Delegates


Button Gwinnett
George Wythe
William Floyd
Lyman Hall
Richard Henry Lee
Philip Livingston
George Walton
Thomas Jefferson
Francis Lewis
Benjamin Harrison
Lewis Morris
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
William Hooper
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Joseph Hewes
Carter Braxton
Richard Stockton
John Penn
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
Robert Morris
John Hart
Edward Rutledge
Benjamin Rush
Abraham Clark
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Benjamin Franklin
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
John Morton
Arthur Middleton
George Clymer
Stephen Hopkins
James Smith
William Ellery
George Taylor
John Hancock
James Wilson
Samuel Adams
George Ross
Roger Sherman
John Adams
Samuel Huntington
Robert Treat Paine
William Williams
Elbridge Gerry
Caesar Rodney
Oliver Wolcott
George Read
Thomas McKean
Samuel Chase
Josiah Bartlett
William Paca
William Whipple
Thomas Stone
Matthew Thornton
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

 

The Declaration of Independence (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1998). (I cut and pasted from their program. They didn’t write it.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What are you talking about? Mark 14

Mark 14 (link) is another of those really extended chapters in Mark. It runs to 72 verses, and would likely take me about 10 sermons to scratch the surface of it. Instead, though, we’re going to have to cover this quickly.

Overviewing the chapter, we move through the whole of the events at the Last Supper. Jesus celebrates the Passover meal with His disciples, which includes the shocking moment where He washes their feet and the announcement of His impending betrayal. Moving ahead, we see the time in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prays, asking the cup to pass from Him but accepts God’s will in the issue.

We have His arrest and the beginning of His trials. Much ink has gone into discussing how many forms of injustice, even by first century standards, are involved in these events. To read through the mockery that these trials contain and consider that the Roman scourging and crucifixion will be worse strains, or should strain, our conscience. Here is the one innocent man to ever walk the earth, and we would go on international television complaining had we simply been blindfolded at trial. That does not even consider being spit on or beaten or slapped.

What I want to point your attention to, though, is not the center portions of this passage. Rather, I would point you to the framework around the chapter. Let’s look at these two stories in-depth:

The first is the story of the woman who anoints Jesus with an expensive perfume and wipes His feet with her hair. The latter is the story of Peter’s three denials of Christ. He starts with a simple “No, not me” and finishes with a curse.

Both of these stories show people with a personal cost to pay for identifying with Christ. Both show the two options in front of us when that cost presents itself to us.

We can take our cue from Peter. We can follow through the easy times and the moderately difficult times, as he did. We can learn all the right answers and even recognize Jesus as the Messiah. The time with Jesus has developed Peter’s understanding, given him many advantages as a follower of Jesus.

Yet we see him come to the point of standing at a distance, watching what happens to his Lord and Savior. We see him, having just recently lopped the ear off of Malchus, following the mob to the home of the high priest. It does not take long for someone to notice him, his appearance, and his accent. Yet in each of three opportunities to acknowledge Christ, he denies that he even knows “this man.”

We could follow this cue: first try to prevent what God has willed, then passively wait for someone to ask about our relationship with Christ and then fumble the answer. Many times I have done so, and I regret every one of those moments. That is the path of Peter in this chapter, but it is not the better path to choose.

Better is the path of Mary in this chapter. At dinner one evening, she comes into the home of Simon the Leper (rough name, dude) and publicly demonstrates her love for Jesus and her understanding of what is about to take place. Jesus declares that she has recognized His coming burial and praises what she has done.

Consider it: she did not wait to be asked, nor did she expect a benefit from what she did. Instead, she receives a scolding from one of the Twelve and the silent treatment from many. After all, she has violated a few social norms to directly honor the One who she worships.

Which example will we follow? It is true that we should recognize how Peter recovers and moves forward, in that his example is exemplary. Yet in this moment, we would do well to consider the actions of a woman Mark did not even name in his retelling of the events. Let us not wait to be asked, but let us boldly fill the room with the fragrance of our worship of Jesus.

Today’s Nerd Note: Anonymity. The Gospels are written in it, for there is no direct statement of authorship. Yet sometimes what is left unsaid is strongly hinted at in the text.

In this case, let us consider Mark. Let us consider, especially, his presence in the Garden of Gethsemane. Longstanding tradition makes Mark the young man in Mark 14:51-52 who flees the arrest scene, leaving behind only the sheet he was wearing. Other traditions make it someone else, yet we cannot know for certain.

I like the Mark tradition. It’s hardly a detail that anyone else would have noticed in the chaos, except perhaps the guard that came away with the sheet. Why recount it otherwise? Some commentators will make it a more symbolic remembrance: whoever the guilty party is, this is about the shame of fleeing Jesus. That’s possible, but at this point there is a more factual telling, which is Mark’s style in general, than a symbols and images style.

There is, further, an additional consideration in the anonymity Mark records of the woman in the events we looked at. While it is hard to connect, there are many women in the New Testament named Mary. The diversity of the isolated stories about them, though, causes most scholars to assume that nearly every “Mary” story that does not have a clear definition of which Mary it is must be a different Mary.

That is, that Mary of Bethany must be different from Mary Magdalene, who in turn is different from this Mary or that Mary. Logos Bible Software’s Biblical People tool gives us SEVEN women named Mary.

What if, though, the name was not quite so common among the followers of Christ? Certainly His mother, Mary, is distinct. However, are there really six others? There is no definite reason why Mary, the mother of John Mark and a widow with a house in Jerusalem, could not also be sister to Martha and Lazarus. This could explain her willingness to house the early church in persecution in Jerusalem. It would explain her son, Mark, having such a devotion to the Gospel.

Now, I have not yet found any full-time scholar who even thinks this way, but I think it’s possible that the reason Mark does not name Mary in the anointing is the same reason he does not name himself: it is part of the writing style that demands anonymity. It would be appear almost bragging for Mark to name his own mother as the woman that Jesus said, essentially, would always be remembered with the Gospel.

His leaving her name unmentioned is not chauvinism, then, but family humility. Maybe even because his mother told him so, and we all know the second greatest truth not recorded in Scripture is this: “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sermon Wrap-up for July 1

Morning Sermon Audio Here (Alternate Link)

Evening Sermon Audio Here (Alternate Link)

Morning Outline: Luke 6:37-45

The importance of Scripture in Context:

We must remember that Jesus did not speak in Bible verses. He spoke in whole sermons.

To understand this verse, one that gets applied to any and every situation today, we need to put it alongside the rest of the Scripture:

1: This is part of His overall message

2: Nowhere does Jesus ever minimize sin. Keep in mind that He wrote the Book on it.

3: You must consider the whole situation:

     A. The role of judges: not just to bring fairness but to determine guilt and mete out punishment

     B. The application of standards is not the same as judgment: if you are striving to hold yourself to a Biblical standard, it is not hypocrisy to express that standard

4: This is also focused on within the community of the committed. Jesus is pointing out that within the faith, there is to be no sense of superiority

5: Why?

Because we are all sinners in need of the grace of God.


That is the point here---we are all born bearing bad fruit, carrying planks, and blind, bound not for a small pit but a big one! An eternal one.

6. Yet we are still responsible for two important things:

     A. Getting the planks from our own eyes

     B. Evaluating the fruit of trees

          1. Our fruit first

          2. The fruit of others

7. That evaluation of fruit does not enable us to determine who sees what eternity--that judgment belongs to God

It does allow us to recognize that someone is or is not:

     Living according to the Word of God

     Living such that they should be an influencer of our lives

The verse about judgment cannot be dealt with without verse 45: that the good man brings out good treasure and the evil man, evil based on what is in their hearts--

God alone can judge the heart, whether there is any spark of good in it, but man can see the fruit and hear the words--

Do not be fooled by surface appearances, but see what comes out over time.

This is exactly the opposite of us deciding who goes to heaven and hell---it is about us not deeming anyone unfit to share the Gospel with.

 

Evening Sermon Audio Here (Alternate Link)

Evening Sermon Outline:

2 Timothy 2:15--Study the Word! July 1 2012 PM


Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


As followers of Christ, our guide is the Bible. We may add additional texts or helps along the way, but none of these either rises to the importance of the Bible or overrules the Bible. The first, most important thing that we do is to follow the Bible.

Yet that carries with it a complication, a two-sided danger, as it is. The first danger is that we will over-study the text. You find people like this, often on either the internet or in church pulpits. They can parse words down to the finest point, give you exactly the Tense-Voice-Mood, Case-Gender-Number, and then break down the syntax.

This is not the danger that most of us face, though. In all honesty, even with the stack of books as high as your eye that I own, it is not even my most common danger. Rather, the greater danger for most of us is that we do not study at all. We read until we find a verse that sounds good, take that one-liner and settle down.

Beyond keeping our faith shallow, this runs us into dangerous ground. Consider:

Matthew 27:5 "Judas went out and hanged himself"

Luke 10:37 "Go and do thou likewise"

We must do more than just read it and live on the surface of the text.

We must diligently study and prepare and strive to understand the Word.

We must be ready, in the midst of this ungodly world, to explain what Scripture means rather than just hope we can spout a few long-forgotten verses and hope that does the trick.

Here are some key portions of studying the Bible:

1. Read it. Honestly, read the text itself. Do not just read the verses that someone links on Facebook but get your own Bible out and read it. That's the first, most critical step. If we're not doing that, nothing else helps.

2. Pray for God's guidance. Unlike any other writings, the author not only is available, but dwells within Believers 

3. Remember these critical facts: 

     A. Scripture was written, originally, to people in a different time and culture. We need to try to understand some of that culture to understand what was happening.

          1. For example, there are things not in the Bible: nothing about driving cars or paving roads! Nothing about mechanization or even hunting opossums--why? Not relevant in the original situation. 

          2. As such, be careful arguing about things the Bible does not say--when you want to examine what God has to say about an issue, you must find the principle and concept rather than assume silence means God has nothing to say about it!

     B. While Scripture presented in parts, we do not receive it in portions--we do not have to examine Romans without Mark, Isaiah without Revelation

     C. We need to study and learn for ourselves, but we can consult for help!

Sermon and Service Recap for November 8

Looks like I forgot to post this! Thank you!