Friday, August 31, 2012

Being a BasketCase: Acts 9

When a person comes to faith in Christ, change happens that is both instant and incremental. For example, based in 2 Corinthians 5:17, the old person that was dead in sin is gone and the new person is present. Spiritual new birth is akin to physical birth: one moment you’re not born, the next you are born.

So there is an instantaneous component to Christian salvation. It is often the case that this moment rights many of the wrongs in person’s life. In salvation, the lost are found by God and the Holy Spirit indwells new believers. In that moment, the pieces are put in place that provide the spiritual resources for a new Christian to grow into a mature disciple of Jesus. Often, that is where old hatreds and addictions melt away—for coming to the Cross we often see first our own need for grace and then the provision of grace not only for ourselves but for others. When we see the cost of our sin, it is hard to hold hatreds in our heart that Jesus died to redeem.

However, salvation does not always solve all problems. It does solve the biggest problem: life without God, for when we are redeemed we are brought into a right standing before God. However, even in providing the spiritual resources to address our lives, sometimes coming to the faith causes us a different set of problems.

Let us take Saul, for instance, in Acts 9 (link). He starts the chapter as an enemy of Christ. His goal is to eliminate the influence of this new group that follows “The Way.” He’s worked on this in Jerusalem, and is now moving up the road to Damascus to work toward the same goal.

On the way, though, he is blinded by a light. More clearly, he’s blinded by the light that is the radiance of Jesus. This is his moment: Saul becomes a new man in Christ that day. You see his bitterness and rage against Christianity melt away and he wants to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.

Which is great. It just brings along a whole new set of issues.

First, Saul struggles for acceptance from the Christian crowd. This is their former enemy, and those memories are not lightly forgotten.

Second, Saul realizes rejection from his old crowd. They are not willing to accept his newfound religious beliefs, they do not want his changed lifestyle.

What happens? The man becomes a basketcase. Sort of: while in Damascus, he has become accepted by the Christians. They protect him from those seeking his life and lower him over the city walls in a basket. From this, I take a safe assumption that either Saul was very light or Damascus Christians were quite strong.

From there, he’s off to Jerusalem. Here he preaches and teaches, but trouble follows him. So, he gets sent back home to Tarsus. We lose him for a few chapters here, but that’s the situation. He’s gone from a respected Pharisee to a basketcase, all because of surrendering to Christ.

With this in mind:

First: coming to faith in Christ, surrendering to Jesus, puts you in a right standing with God. That is about the single most important thing in this life—so it’s a good thing for you, just as it was for Saul.

Second: the world in which we live is sin-soaked and quite the mess. The people who are enthralled by the world are not going to accept those faithful to Christ. There may be acceptance for some time or on some issues, but in all? Not going to happen for the long-term.

Third: that sin-soaked world? The bad things that happen will keep happening, and that includes bad things happening to you. Even with your faith. Be ready.

Fourth: As a follower of Christ, you are not in this alone. Certainly we have the presence of God, but we should also have our fellow disciples. If you are trying to live the isolated Christian life, keep this mind: you occasionally need someone to put you in a basket.

Fifth: As a follower of Christ, be around to help put your fellow Christians in baskets. We all need it sometimes :)

Today’s Nerd Note: The street called Straight in Damascus still exists. Check it out through any decent archaeological study guide! Never forget, no matter how nerdy you may be, that the events of Scripture happen to real people in a real place during real time.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book: The Mormonizing of America

I received an email a few weeks ago asking if I would like to review a new book out titled The Mormonizing of America. I had a few reservations about it, but knowing that the current political campaign would feature a Mormon, it seemed like a good idea.

Of course, one can hardly doubt that this book would not be coming out, now, if it were not for that same campaign. Be that as it may, this subject is timely. Whether or not this book is timely is what we need to consider. And we’ll give author Stephen Mansfield a pass on making a verb from a noun in “Mormonizing.” There’s grammar police out there who will get him for that.

The first real memory of Mormonism I have is the commercials that formerly aired during The A-Team and other great television classics. Their commercials were positive, family-friendly, and perfectly suited to good guys who could save the day without actually shooting the bad guys. Later on, I learned a little more about the religious beliefs of the Mormons. That required time spent learning a little of their history.

Which leads us to the difficulty with Mormonism: it is, truly, a recent religion. It is one of the few religious groups to arise fully in the printed-word era, and is a fully home-grown American religion. That has to couple with the growing pains and the development of doctrine which occur when any group coalesces into a religious movement.

As an example: what are now the Methodists started as an effort to strengthen the Anglican church. Now, though, the two are quite separate. Even historically within Christianity, we see how the early church started with some traditions and then shifted across the years.

Mormonism has gone through, and continues to go through, some of those same growing pains. It is easy to find evidence of what was said by Mormon leaders and originators, but it can be somewhat challenging to determine if those beliefs are currently held by either the LDS Church at-large or specific Mormons. The near-veneration of their leaders complicates the issue, as most Mormons will reject a belief presented by an historic leader but will not state that leader to have been wrong.

As such, the tracing of Mormon history is illustrative, but can leave us with questions. Has the LDS Church abandoned their racist teachings of the past or are they just hiding them? It is difficult to be certain.

And we now have a Mormon standing for President of the United States. (As an aside, this shows, I think, the angst with President Obama. In few other elections would a Mormon have even been considered, but the “Let’s drop President Obama” cries are such that almost any religious background would be considered.)

What will that impact be?

Mansfield’s book, The Mormonizing of America, attempts to partially answer that question by examining the history of how Mormonism came to be, and how it came to be an accepted part of the United States. This is a religious group, after all, that at one point had an armed militia that was considered a threat to national security. Is this just a long game conspiracy to rule the country?

Mansfield does not attempt to give a hard answer to that question. His work, overall, allows for that possibility but does indicate the unlikeliness of it. Instead, he sees the growth of Mormonism as the “Fourth Abrahamic Religion” coming into the foreground.

That is one of the important keys I see in this book. Mansfield makes clear the truth that Mormonism is not Christianity. It is not even a subset of Christianity, but it is its own religion. Mormonism, in religious academic terms, is a “cult” as it uses parts of another religion, Christianity, and redefines them into its own meaning. It is not, any longer, a “cult” in the weird sense of the word that many of us think of.

Mansfield’s research and information appears on point. It aligns with my own reading of the Book of Mormon and the LDS Doctrine and Covenants, and my own understanding of American history. I must admit that most of my information has come from non-Mormon sources, so the official history that Governor Romney holds might be different.

Still, Mansfield appears to have done his research well. His material comes across as anti-Mormon at points, but the real history of Joseph Smith, Jr., was a difficult one. Most of the “anti-Mormon” information is simply leaving quotes without explanation or extended excuse. While some of those quotes might need more context, they stand well on their own.

This book provides a fairly well-rounded outsider’s look in at Mormon history and theology. It is far from complete. You will not find an adequate theological apologetic contra Mormonism here. You will also not find a complete historical correction to the claims of Mormonism regarding pre-Colombian America.

For a short primer on Mormonism in America, this book makes a good start. A deeper study would be advisable, but this book should get you asking the right questions.

If you’d like more information, check this interview with the author.

Note: This book was given to me in exchange for the review.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pancakes? Leviticus 2

The book of Leviticus really does get better, but these opening chapters are tough. Leviticus 2 (link) continues in what we would typically call the “ceremonial” laws of the Old Testament. These addressed the proper ways of worship for Old Testament Israel. For a Christian, there is instruction in the nature of God and His holiness and righteousness here, but we do not find these laws to be binding. Neither should we over-stretch our efforts to see Jesus in all of Scripture to make the Grain Offerings all about Him.

We understand, through the ideas of New Testament Theology, that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus fulfilled the purposes of the offerings and sacrifices of the Old Testament. One might even stretch Jesus’ statement that He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and connect it to the grain offerings. I think that’s a bit of a stretch, but if your favorite preacher likes it, then stick with it.

What do we gather from here? Other than the idea that grain offered in a pan was to be a fine flour mixed with oil, which is fundamentally a pancake? Seriously, if you look hard at Leviticus 2:7, it’s hard not to come up with pancakes here.

Some of which were to be burned in the fire and the rest were given to the priests. That which was burned was not to include leaven or honey, but was to include salt. Honey and leaven could be brought but not included in that which was burned and given over to God. Oh, and note the beginning: you were to mix frankincense with your flour. It was almost Christmas pancakes, really. Except some 1500 years before Christmas.

What do we do with this? Seriously, because it’s hard not to give up on Leviticus in this chapter.

First, see this: that which was given to the Lord (YHWH) was to be destroyed. This is a consistent Old Testament theme, but it finds its first light here. Devoting an item to God meant it could not remain usable to anyone else. The practical side of this meant it was burned completely in fire. This removed any reclamation: while there are portions for priests, the Lord’s amount is not consumed by the priests. His is His. Further, burning caused the item to rise above in smoke, going into the heavens. This symbolized the greatness of God.

Second, see this: no offering was made without effort. However your grain was offered, you had to put some work into it. You did not just cut a portion from the field, which took work, and drop it off. You broke it into bits and cooked it on a griddle. You ground it into flour and cooked it in a pan. You did something with it. Worship is not a single action that we get done with as quickly as possible. Worship takes our effort. Our effort guided by the Spirit through the Word, but effort just the same.

Third, see this: God is pleased with right sacrifices. The grain offerings were apparently not about atoning for sin. These were offered as expressions of thanksgiving or signs of devotion. These reflected a heart fixed on the God. If you are sacrificing, are you doing so from a heart like that? Or do seek something else? God is most pleased with sacrifices offered from a devoted heart, not with those intended to buy His favor. Which is not for sale, by the way.

As a minor aside, we see that the priests were given a portion of the offerings. It is important to note that the amounts and methods for determining the priests’ share are dictated by God. There was to be no artificial inflation of the priestly income—they were provided for sustenance and adequacy, not luxury and exorbitance.

Today’s Nerd Note: Why no honey? The first thought is practical: it’s sticky.

That’s probably not it. Honey is a semi-wild product. Sure, one might contain the bees and even ensure that the beehive is fully ceremonially clean. What of it? The honey is made from the flowers and other food sources of the bees. How can you guarantee its ceremonial purity?

Also, honey and leaven are mentioned together. You know what happens when you mix honey, yeast, flour, and oil, right? Let the dough arise in that case. This bread product would not have as long of a shelf-life, but more than that, it would appear bigger for some than for others.

Think about that: bread rises differently based on altitude, temperature, humidity. Offerings were offered in the midst of the community. What is the impact on relationships if one family appears to be offering a grain offering that is twice the size of anyone else’s? Especially if that apparent difference is only because of the rising of bread?

There are reasons for these details. I am of the opinion that many of the reasons are about how people react to each other and the details are given to help protect community—there seems little affront to God’s holiness in these details. Some of it is about obedience. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to obey God when everything makes sense, right? Much of it, though, would have the side-effect of protecting unity among the body of God’s people.

Which is a good idea in all cases: God’s people, united by His truth, are a wonderfully connected group.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One-Chapter Wonder: Acts 8

Blogger note: I had, and have, high hopes to write for this blog every day. I have yet to attain to those hopes. As the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.” Also, if at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then, if you still don’t succeed, redefine your goals. So, I’m redefining my goals. I intend to give you at least 3 good posts a week here, with 2 definitely in the Through the Whole Bible series, 1 probably from that series, and 1 post that is just the sermon recap from the preceding Sunday. Sorry to any of you whose hopes are dashed by this reduction.

The Book of Acts has the chapter breaks in some strange spots. Acts 8 (link) starts with 3 verses that really feel like they should be in Acts 7, but they start off this chapter. We see the remnant of the narrative of Stephen’s story, as devout men bury him and weep over his death. Meanwhile, foreshadowing hits as we see a man named Saul agreeing greatly with the execution and turning the execution of one man into a persecution against an entire population subset.

That is an alarming reality that continues to this day: it is possible for the persuasive to turn the crowds against a minority population, using only one or two cases to make their point. Dangerous in despotisms certainly, but it is also a fatal blow to liberty and freedom. The excesses that arise in times of general persecution of a group of people are frightening. Historical examples abound, whether the French Revolution, the Salem Witch Trials, or the repression of Baptists in the 17th century are your starting point, you can find these situations everywhere. One example lies just down the road from my house: it’s a place call Rowher, and it’s a reminder of how even a libertine republic can turn on people. There was a Japanese internment camp there. This is not like the Prisoner of War Camp that was near Monticello, though. This was a place where “right-thinking” Americans locked up their fellow citizens simply over skin tone.

Up the road the other way is the site of one of the larger lynch mob events in Arkansas during the Jim Crow era. We have a remarkable capacity for cruelty hidden in our hearts, and unleashing just a bit of it can be like the first sand boil on a levee: that trickle comes, then the whole thing fails.

This outbreak of persecution, the first general persecution of Christianity, results in the scattering of many of the believers. That which was concentrated in one place, Jerusalem, now begins to scatter across the Roman Empire. Likely some people even fled beyond the boundaries, toward the Parthian Empire and farther, but the history in Acts focuses on those within countries with a Mediterranean coast.

The church responds to persecution by clamming up and disappearing, for the faith they held was in something legendary and unknowable, therefore it failed in the light of Greek logic and Roman pluralism. After all, it was not a belief worth holding. So, the story ends here, and there is no real Christianity since then.

The church responds to persecution and scattering by going around, telling people about Jesus and teaching them about Him. In essence, trouble is met with obedience: the people, as they go, make disciples and teach them to follow Christ. One person of note is highlighted in this chapter, but I think he represents the many unnamed believers in this chapter, much as the one-hit singer who rises from karaoke night reminds us of all those who try to make it, who go and do, even if they are only known by the local folks.

That person is Philip. He, too, is one of those first men that we label “deacons” in the early church. However, if he and Stephen are any example, the modern Baptist church has the role of deacon quite wrong. That’s another discussion, though. Let us cast our glance toward the actions of Philip here.

He goes to Samaria. For a good Jew to go to Samaria is like a heavy metal band going to the Grand Ole Opry. The two groups just did not mix. Yet here he is. This is, perhaps, the first witness to the Samaritans since John 4 when Jesus was there Himself. He comes face-to-face with a man named Simon there who could do magic. People thought Simon was something, until they met Jesus.

Then Simon’s not the big draw anymore. The word of God reaches the Samaritans, and it even penetrates the magician’s heart. He believes, and marvels at the signs and miracles done by God through Philip and others. When word of all of this reaches Jerusalem, where most of the Twelve still are, they come to check it out. There is a conflict with Simon, because he wants to buy an apostleship. I might give him the benefit of the doubt and point out that he did not know much, and might have thought he was doing well. Nonetheless, he is rebuked and appears to repent.

Philip, having seen the new believers in Samaria baptized and beginning their walk in faith, follows angelic instructions to go elsewhere. He meets a eunuch from Ethiopia, explains Scripture to him, leads him to Jesus, baptizes him, and sends him on home. He then “finds himself at Azotus” (Acts 8:39) and preaches his way up to Caesarea. Then he promptly drops off the map, appearing in Acts 21 when Paul stops by. For all we have in Biblical record, Philip finds a life in Caesarea and spends his days there. We know he has four daughters, so one could rightly assume he married, but little else is known.

He is, basically, a one-chapter wonder in the New Testament. He does not write a book or even a letter. Whatever his preaching, however great its impact, it was not recorded in the text. Take a look back: he preaches, but no one seems to have recorded his sermon. We see miracles involved in his story, but the text does not accredit these done at Philip’s hand as we see of Peter or Paul.

In short, he’s there, he does what he can, and then he’s gone. His impact is eternal, but his fame was fleeting. I think the challenge for all of us is to realize that we are more likely to be Philip than to be Peter or Paul. Even more likely, we are the “those who had been scattered.” Our names are going to go down unknown to history. Can we cope with that?

Can I?

Or do we need the acclaim of men so badly that we want to be more? I think this is Simon’s error in Acts 8:19. He wants to go back to being famous, but he cannot. It is not for him to demand or pay for the role: it is for God to grant.

Yet we need to remember this: the Gospel message was not carried only by the big guns of the New Testament. There were the less famous, like Philip and his daughters (Acts 21:9). There were the unknown. Yet we sit here, 2000 years later, saved by grace, living by faith, and guided by the Spirit through the Word because of what all of them did. We are believers because as they scattered, they did not hide. They went about, telling the story. Let us take on the same thing.

Today’s Nerd Note: Simon in this story is also called Simon Magus or Simon the Magician. He is condemned by church history in a couple of ways.

First, he contributes a dictionary entry: simony, the practice of buying/selling ecclesiastical positions. See, in government that’s called normal, but it’s really considered bad in ministry. Yet it was the entrenched practice for many generations. In truth, clerical celibacy evolved in connection with simony: there had to be no way for anyone to inherit a church position, so that it could be resold. So, no marriages for priests. There were additional reasons, but this was part of the logic.

The other thing Simon gets hit with is being the father of heresy in the church. The story is told that he never truly converted, but he was in the church and his fame and charisma allowed him to influence the Samaritan church to believe things not quite true. From there, many of the problems are traced into the flow of church history.

Here is my difficulty: early church history is a good study field, but it’s a challenging one as well. As with many writings of the time, facts and interpretations sit side-by-side and both are often not written for some time after events. Simon may be being scapegoated on this one. Then again, he may be guilty as charged.

He may sit in heaven rejoicing that God’s grace was enough not only for the crimes he committed but also for the ones he never did. He may long for the day he is exonerated before humanity. Or he faces eternal wrath from God for what he did and his refusal of God’s grace.

We don’t know. I don’t know. In this, we are reminded to trust God to judge and not do it ourselves.

The nerdy side of this is this question: What do we do with early church legends? Some of them are more reliable than others. All of these should be approached with the same skepticism we greet any other historical document with, though. It is an article of faith that the Scriptures are accurate. Semi-paranoid reticence about other documents is good, though.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sermon Wrap-Up: August 26

Apologies for the lateness of the post. The day has not been what I planned on it being.

Morning sermon audio is here (alternate link)

Evening sermon audio is here (alternate link)

We did continue with our livestreaming efforts. As of right now, we’re not set up for a video archive. It’s only available when it runs. We’re looking at costs for improving, but we’re not sure what the best option is yet.

Morning outline is non-existent. Luke 8:40-56 was the text

Evening outline:

Corporate Worship:

Psalm 100

A. Noisy

B. Service-oriented

C. Known, not unknown

D. Separated from ordinary life

E. Thankfulness

Individual Purity:

1 Peter 1:13-16

A. Prepare: fill it up

B. Fix: focus, stay on target

     1. Hope

     2. Grace

          Drawn from the Word of God

C. Be unconformed.

D. Be holy

Friday, August 24, 2012

Book: Should Christians be Environmentalists?

Kregel Publishers provided this book free in exchange for the review.

Dan Story released this book earlier in 2012, back in February, in an attempt to address what he sees as a gap between Christian behavior and good stewardship of the world God has created. In it, he addresses the need for environmental action, a Biblical basis for environmental action, and some suggested steps of action for churches and Christians to be involved in environmental action.

His suggested steps of action are excellent. The idea of a local church being involved, perhaps as the community centerpoint, in developing programs that protect creation is a good thing. This is a popular and passionate subject and provides an excellent way to both address the need to be good stewards of what God has given us and reach the lost. In former times, churches often connected with communities through school activities and such, but that door is often closing from both sides. Creation care is a good stepping stone in its place.

Further, demonstrating concern for environmental issues and their global impact factors in as part of our consideration for the global church. It is not just the impact of relief for ourselves that should be considered, but whether or not we continue in reckless behaviors that endanger our fellow man around the world.

A word of caution, though, has to be added to the idea of “world-wide concern” when looking at environmental factors. I live in the heart Arkansas rice country, and we produce a large amount of rice through modern, industrialized farming methods. Those methods include diesel-powered machines, fertilizers, and pesticides. Some environmental groups would have farming reduce or eliminate many of those modernizations. The problem with that is the guaranteed concomitant rise in food prices. So, we might save our great-grandchildren the effects of over-farming by raising food prices to the point that their grandparents suffer malnutrition. This is part of the complexity of the issue.

His Biblical bases for action are valuable. There is no greater authority in the life of a Christian than the Word of God itself. Not emotion, not alarming statistics, not even apparent immediate need, but the Word of God. Story does an excellent job showing examples from Scripture and theological history that support the idea that Christians should demonstrate concern and active involvement in environmental efforts.

This is coupled with an examination of whether or not Christian belief is more likely to be responsible for environmental damage than other religious beliefs. He explains well that damage is done throughout all systems, and also shows that Christianity, as he sees it, should be the leading religious belief concerned with protecting the environment.

The overall case for environmental action is the place where I find fault with this work. One of his opening examples recounts how many predator animals were killed in the 1960s by a government program to reduce predator animals. Having seen the damage that coyotes do to something as simple as drip-line irrigation, I am unsympathetic to coyotes. The further story regarding the overpopulation of deer in national lands sounds more like the need to allow wider hunting than a problem with predator removal; alas many of the groups spoken of fondly in these chapters want no expansion of hunting, either.

My difficulty with this section is one more of method than of content: by opening with the standard environmentalist lines of thought, the work teeters toward proof-texting existing environmental ideas rather than beginning with Scripture to demonstrate the Christian life. It would be better to start with the Scriptural basis and use even the same examples to illustrate rather to start with the “mankind is terrible for the planet” routine. Christian theology does not co-exist well with an advocacy that puts man as a destructive parasite—rather it works well with realizing man as responsible to God for stewardship over creation.

I won’t be leading a group study in this text, but it would do well as a general discussion starter. Most likely, those Christians whose view of the earth is “it’s all going to be burned anyway” will not have an interest here, but those looking for a few insights will find some help here.

Get more info on Dan Story here: www.danstory.net

 

Again: free book for review from Kregel Publishers.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Light me up! Leviticus 1

Getting back into the Old Testament today as we go through the whole Bible, we are looking at Leviticus 1 (link). Leviticus is one of those books in the Bible that many of us know is there, but we only go to it at great need. Then, our great need is usually to find a single verse to quote to support our view on a moral issue. While the bulk of Leviticus does relate to the moral and spiritual laws given to Israel and so contains those instructions, it is still necessary to grasp the fullness of the context of the book.

Leviticus begins, then, with the most important phrase for understanding the text. Then the Lord (Yahweh) called to Moses and spoke to him. (Leviticus 1:1) That’s it.

The entire understanding of the book of Leviticus hinges on that phrase. Why?

Well, let’s look at the rest of the chapter. As we go through the remains of the chapter, we see the instructions given on how to offer burnt offerings. There are specific details about how to arrange the animal on the fire, how to kill it, and what type of animal it is to be. Even present is the small detail that the entrails are to be washed first, then burnt—which seems to me a waste of time, but those are the instructions.

We can take these instructions and the rest of Leviticus one of two ways. The first way we can take it is as is that this is the religious instruction manual for early Judaism. We could view it as constructed by the priests to explain what they do and to teach further generations of priests in what their responsibilities are. It would have been written, then, in the style similar to other religious groups of its time.

If this is the case, then there is no real authority in the work. After all, it was only the laws and customs of an archaic religion whose own modern adherents do not practice these customs. We can discard them in our modern times, because we are immeasurably smarter and better-looking than those folks were.

On the other side, though, if the words of Leviticus are not merely the construction of man but are instead the words of a transcendent God, then we have a problem. Why? Because these words are less negotiable in that case. If God gave these commands, then we have to start working through them and trying to understand them.

We will have to study and determine if they are still binding not based on what we feel about them but on how God has revealed Himself and these words. This will come from studying the fullness of the context of Leviticus: what it meant when it was written, where it fits in the whole Bible, and how to see it in light of the Cross.

That may mean we cannot simply cherry-pick quotes from it but must use Leviticus as part of our teaching of the fullness of the riches of Christ. It may mean that we have to re-evaluate how we address certain issues of morality and worship. Those two things cannot really be separated, by the way---spiritually speaking, trying to worship in designated time slots without living a God-centered morality would analogous to physically working out like crazy in certain times and eating nothing but bacon and doughnuts. It just would not work.

We need to understand whether or not our worship of God should start with lighting up a fire to roast an ox or two…or if that practice was meant to foreshadow Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, and so we do not light literal fires but instead kindle our hearts to burn with passion for Him.

All of this follows if we understand the first verse of Leviticus: these are not the mere words of man, but the words of the Covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth. So, will we do with them what we should?

Today’s Nerd Note: Authorship of the Pentateuch is a good nerdy subject, but one I am not quite equipped to handle in 249 words or less. Here’s the deal: it seems from a practical level that Moses could not have written all of these books. However, that is the traditional understanding of authorship: God spoke to Moses, then Moses wrote.

Many academic efforts have tried to find a different idea. Too many of these, I think, are based in an urge to force authorship into a chronology that does not work. The goal has been to explain who wrote these books because the assumption is that the events recorded are not true but are the legends of early Israel. So, Leviticus and others are written to justify Second Temple Judaism rather than being the true record of early Israel.

I think that’s a questionable assumption. I do not have a problem with an authorship theory that puts the majority of writing in the time of Moses with some later editing and possibly a later addition. However, I start with the assumption that the texts bear an accurate record of what happened.

In Biblical Studies, that is often what you get: what you are looking for. If you want evidence of Mosaic authorship, there are many who easily find it. If you want evidence of later authorship, there are many who find it. Look at what they come in with and see how it turns out.

That is our goal, though, as students of the Word: let what is there dictate what we actually think.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Remember being Aliens! Acts 7

Acts 6 (link) saw the institution of deacons into the church. It concluded with one of the deacons being arrested for performing signs and wonders among the people. After his arrest, he is brought before the Council for trial.

That trial is the center point of Acts 7 (link). The high priest asks Steven about the truth of the charges laid against him. Steven responds by reciting the history of the people of Israel. He provides a summary of the redemptive work that God has done for the people.

He gives it alongside the history of the people of Israel’s consistent turn from God to idols. This would not be an advisable strategy in court, but it is the direction Steven takes here. The end-result is his execution at the hands of an angry mob.

Why? Because his hearers do not want to be reminded of the truth about themselves and their heritage. They do not want to remember the time when their ancestors were aliens (Acts 7:6) nor the carrying of idols alongside the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle (Acts 7:42-43). They want everything to have always been good and right, with no need for any redemption or any possibility that they could have made a mistake on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

That is the fear. The fear is of the truth. The truth of their own frailty, of their own sinfulness.

Do we fear the same thing?

I think we do. Consider how defensive we are of our own history. For many of us, our history and heritage are filled with people that made questionable decisions. Being from the South, I am almost certain that there are racists and rebels in my family history. Yet those are skeletons in the closet that we prefer to keep there, don’t we?

After all, if my ancestors were capable of sinful behavior, then I likely am too. And if I can deny that any mistakes were made before now, then I can insulate myself from any accusations of wrongdoing. I come from a long line of perfection, so between upbringing and genetics, I do not mistakes make.

Except that is so far from the truth that it was even hard to type, knowing that I will put the truth a paragraph down. I know that I make mistakes. I can highlight the errors that I have made better than anyway, even better perhaps than you can. (Seriously, you do not have to ask my prior churches what my shortcomings as a pastor are. I can tell you and show you better than they can.)

Remembering that the Hibbards of old were failures at times is actually a liberating moment. It frees me to realize that I need the same thing they always needed: forgiveness and strength. A redeemer. The Redeemer.

This is exactly what the Council did not want then, and it is so often what we do not want now. Consider how much effort we put into assuring ourselves of our “self-worth” and personal value. How defensive we are of our culture, of our heritage, of who we are and where we came from.

Yet all of those defenses are worthless. Why? Because no wall is of use when there is not the heart to defend it. Just ask Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. In our hearts, we know how weak we are.

It is okay to remember being an alien. To remember that your ancestors were aliens. There is no shame in knowing that you were once a spiritual drifter or that your family chose beliefs that you deny.

What matters is where you go when the truth hits home. That is actually the summary question for all of the sermons present in Acts to this point: Acts 2, Acts 3, Acts 7.

In Acts 2, the people repent. In Acts 3, many people come to Christ. In Acts 7, the Council though rejects the truth. They react in anger and violence.

That is almost never the solution. Let us learn who we are and choose to go forward guided by the grace of God.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sermon Wrap-Up August 19

Here are the sermon audios from this past Sunday:

Morning Audio (Alternate Link)

Evening Audio (Alternate Link)

Additionally, we are experimenting with live video streaming of the worship services on Sundays. The link is on Ustream. That’s out of necessity: it’s the only place I could find that would setup a free stream. Please, keep in mind that any advertisements on the stream or Ustream’s website are their responsibility and should not be seen as an endorsement by the myself or the church. The channel is here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/fbc-almyra You should not have to “register” or anything else. I will be working on whether or not a recording feature is available.

Below is the code that will should let you watch the livestream:


Live Video app for Facebook by Ustream

Morning Outline: Luke 8:26-39

I. The story

II. The situation

III. The solution

How do we handle those who have been marginalized?

Do we understand that the Gospel is the solution to societal problems?

Are we chaining those we could be healing?

Evening Outline: Psalm 145

Psalm 145: The goodness of God

God is good and God is great--

What does this mean?

1: Good

     Righteous

     Character

     Will to act

2: Great

     All-powerful

     Strong

     Ability to act

Friday, August 17, 2012

Trouble at the Tables: Acts 6

Trouble comes from two basic places: inside and outside. That seems like an obvious statement right? If not, let’s consider it:

Your car works fine. Then, one day it does not. Either something broke internally or some external force, like a freight train, smacked it. Either way, it was working fine until either internal wear brought it down or external forces destroyed.

The same thing is evident in your body. You go to bed, fine, and wake up and cannot move your arm. Perhaps the ligaments snapped in the night, and perhaps it was gnawed off by a tiger. Either way, either internal disruption or external destruction put a hold on your jazz marimba career.

The difference between the internal and the external forces is that you can often see the external problems coming. The internal ones tend to pop up from less expected directions. Healthy people die from heart attacks while smokers live without lung cancer; alcoholics die from simple falls while vegans die of liver disease. All of these events happen, even though they are from the expected results.

This is visible in the church as well. The difficulties in Acts 5 with external persecution and religious pressure were expected. After all, this religious group was responsible for the execution of Jesus, so one must assume His disciples were expecting problems on the outside.

Really, problems on the outside are easier to deal with. They may be more catastrophic, but often outside issues are either single incidents or predictable pressures. Much like the single damage of a car accident or the long-term external pressure of gas prices, you can see it happening and know when it’s over.

The internal issues, though, are much more difficult to deal with. These are what we have in Acts 6 (link). Internal issues. When those arise, you have to deal with them, and deal decisively with them.

Why? Because internal hemorrhage is deadly, and internal strife is deadly to a church. Very rarely has external pressure completely destroyed a body of Christian believers. While some churches fade away as external forces remove the people that are part of a fellowship, even the persecution of North Korea or Iran has not eliminated churches from those nations.

Yet the Christian churches that once sponsored the learning and culture of Western Europe and the United States are dying rapidly and their influence is waning quicker than a Cubs playoff run. It is external forces that we would like to blame for these problems, but really our issues have arisen internally and we cannot escape that reality.

The passage today, Acts 6, is the first place in church history that internal issues arise. Within this passage, the church sees a problem arise in how they are handling the provision for the needs of widows within their community.

A few words are necessary to address why this was an issue. First, in the social norms of the day it was the responsibility of the family to provide for widows within the family. Additionally, orphans should also have been provided for by extended family rather than abandoned. (You see a little about this as the early church does not seem to address orphans until perhaps a decade into their existence, time enough for children to be born into believing families and then their parents to have died.)

The religious system of the Jews established these social norms, but the Christian faith was disruptive to that system. In some portions of Israel, especially Jerusalem, it appears that accepting Jesus as the Messiah put one into isolation from their family and cut off that support. The church then undertook to meet that need. The idea is that the church is family starts here (though that has run to an abusive level in some place): the church is family, united by the blood of Christ. That means provision and care, stability and stick-to-it-ness that you do not find many other places. After all, family is family, no matter what happens.

I digress: the church has taken on providing for the widows that have come to the faith. This is all well and good, but trouble comes from it. Eventually a complaint arises that there is a disparity in the food distribution. There appears to be more distribution to the native Hebrew-speaking Jews than there is to the Greek-speaking members of the church.

In the long run, the church will have more Greek-speakers than Hebrew-speakers, but that is not the case yet. Right now it feels to the minority group that they are being overlooked or slighted in the operation. This is the setup for division and argument.

Note a few critical aspects of this situation:

First: There is no argument here about doctrine. No one is wrong or right here, and so this is not about the purity of the church. Neither is it about getting God’s Word right. In those cases, there is no compromise or synthesis: right is right, and wrong is wrong.

Second: There is no actual sin present in this situation. This causes me to think that there was no true disparity in provision of food for widows, for denying one group food over ethnicity would be blatantly evil. Instead, I think this is a problem of appearance. When sin is present, there is no compromise with it. Sin has to go.

Third: There is no reason not to simply solve the problem and move on. There is no point in rehashing yesterday’s complaint or getting even for it. Instead, move forward! And do so quickly

What do we take from this?

Address the issue quickly. It does not appear that this problem festered in the church but was instead handled quickly.

Believe the best about people. There were no accusations attached but only discussion of behavior.

Commit to keep prayer and the Word important.

Delegate issues to be handled by people that can handle them.

Exalt God over your problems.

Any internal issue must be addressed and addressed quickly. Take the example of the early church and act rather than allow the strain to build up!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Not about the Money, Honey: Acts 5

Acts 4 wrapped up with a touching story of how Barnabas sold a parcel of land and laid the proceeds at the feet of the Apostles. We assume that his gift was given so that the church could use it however was deemed necessary. It was also known among the people what he had done—otherwise Luke could not report it, could he?

On the heels of the accolades that Barnabas likely received, others followed suit. The story continues in Acts 5 (link) with a couple that follows partly in his footsteps. Ananias and Sapphira also sell a piece of land and donate the money to the church.

Except they do not donate all the money. They keep part of the money to themselves. The end result? Peter confronts them and they are both struck dead by the power of God. This is a somewhat terrifying story.

Especially when it’s misapplied. Most frequently, this passage gets taken apart and used over and over to insist on bigger financial contributions to a church or ministry. The preacher or speaker is using the text as a manipulative tool to get what he wants rather than to express the truth of the Word of God.

Which is one of my personal pet peeves: the Word says what it says. You can like it or not like it, but you do not get to change it.

This passage is not about the money. Keep that clearly in mind. Repeat it as necessary: this is not about the money.

The Ananias and Sapphira passage is about these things:

1.) Honesty. This is the first lesson here. Honesty. If we are not honest within the church, then we are doomed. It is truly that simple, no matter what our modern sensitivities tell us. We must be honest about what we have done, what our intentions are, and what our struggles are. Many of us are dying spiritually because we are trying to present ourselves as different from who we are. That is neither helpful nor Biblical.

We need to develop our honesty between each other, and even further, in our communication with God. That was Ananias and Sapphira’s major error here: they thought that their deception would go unnoticed. Yet it does not: they lie to their fellow believers and fail to understand that doing so will be noticed by God.

2.) Community. This is the second lesson here. Community. If we do not acknowledge that what happens to one of us happens to the whole community, then we will never develop the unity we need to function as God’s people. Moreover it is critical to understand that nothing within the community of faith is ever between just the people. Those actions involve God, whether we like it or not.

3.) Individuality. This is the third lesson here. Individuality. While this may sound contradictory to the previous point, bear with me on this. It is a mistake to think that community and unity come from everyone being alike. That is not the case—that’s blandness, not community. One can guess at Ananias and Sapphira’s motivations, though not with certainty, and see that they were trying to be just like Barnabas.

Yet believers in Christ are different from each other. We have unique personalities and varied skills. It is wrong to attempt to force ourselves into the same box another person has carved for themselves. To assume that because Barnabas took a specific action that this action ought to be copied is a mistake on their part.

What should be similar among Christians is what type of people we are, not the precision of what we do. Ananias and Sapphira should have taken their cue from Barnabas’ generosity and attitude and seen how that should be expressed by them in their own way, rather than just ripping off his actions without learning the attitude.

This is not to say that we should not do similar things, but copying the exterior actions is not where we start. We start by emulating examples of the type of character we should be rather than just copying the actions.

Be yourself. Examples are good. Examples are inspiring, encouraging, but the church cannot become what we ought to be if we are focused on copying one great example instead of growing into what we ought to be as individuals.

The fatal damage in the activities here was the dishonesty, but there is more going on here than just that.

And the money? That’s nowhere on the radar.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Busted! Acts 4

What would you expect if you raised a lame man in the midst of a crowd of people? Most likely, you’d expect what Peter and John have at the end of Acts 3, which is a nice big crowd listening to what they have to say. A group of people wondering at the source of the power that has been demonstrated. A crowd willing to consider those claims you have to present.

You probably do not expect this:

Or, at the very least, the Second Temple Judaism form of it. But that’s what Peter and John get in Acts 4 (link) as we go through the whole Bible. The authorities lay hands on them and lead them away to put them in prison overnight. The next day, they are questioned, threatened, and released.

In the midst of all this, though, they confront the religious leaders and speak the truth about Jesus to these leaders. Keep in mind, these are many of the same religious powers-that-be who turned Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion. It’s a hostile crowd to start with, and Peter pointing to these elders that the miracle was done “by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified” (Acts 4:10) was not going to win them any brownie points.

This does not stifle their commitment. We see them challenge the elders that they cannot give heed to men rather than to God and declare that they cannot stop speaking about what they have seen and heard. Further, after their release, they gather with the church and praise God for His goodness and mercy. They do not even truly praise God that they were delivered: the focus of praise from Acts 4:24-27 is more on God and redemption through Christ rather than on their escape. The only self-noting portion? Praying that they would have confidence in speaking the Word. That’s it.

How do we come closer to this? Rare among the believers in Christ will be one who does not long to see thousands come to Jesus and begin life as disciples. Rare among the believers is one who would not want to see the earth shaken by the power of God. Rare among the believers is one who would not want to see the unity discussed at the end of the chapter, where the needs of all are met by the generosity and efforts of all.

If we want this, what do we do?

I would tell you that it’s not as much about what we do. In truth, very few things in following Jesus are about what you do. Life as a disciple of Christ is about who you are. Now, who you are becomes evident in what you do. The growth of a disciple, though, is not behavior modification but life transformation. Never forget that if we are growing into the right person, one who seeks God in all things, focuses on the truth, lives in grace, and trusts in God’s love, if we are growing into that person then we will do what we ought to do.

What do we become is the better question than what do we do?

First, we become people so satisfied in God that we are unimpressed by success. As Peter and John are being led away, Luke records that more are added to the church, such that the church reaches 5,000 men. The narrative reads compactly, but it seems that very little time has elapsed since Pentecost. This is rapid growth for beliefs that are contrary to both religious power and political power in the time. It is not a likely time for church growth.

And as it happens, Peter and John are not distracted by it. Too often, we are quick to be drawn to our own success and stop and celebrate it. Yet our satisfaction about life needs to come out of God’s care for us, His unmistakable grace in our lives. Our success or failure is about whether or not we are drawn to Him and faithful to Him. It is not about how big of a splash we have made in this world. That’s like admiring the hole in the water after your best cannonball: it’s fleeting and we’ll drown if we don’t move on.

Second, we become people so committed to God that we cannot imagine obeying any other voice. The Sadducees give commands not to preach or teach in the name of Christ, yet Peter and John refuse to heed the voice of men over the voice of God. Are we that committed? Or is our hope in more than one place?

Third, we become people so connected to God’s presence that anyone can tell it. This is the passage, in Acts 4:13, where we have that great line about how the elders recognized Peter and John as those who had “been with Jesus.” What about us? Is our life spent seeking after the presence of God strongly enough that it shows to anyone?

Finally, we become people so concerned for each other that even our own heritage is given. We often make a big deal about Barnabas’ sale of land at the end and his contribution to the body. We can see him as the named example of what was going on here—and it’s good to note. It is also important to note that selling the land likely meant a separation from the family heritage that he (and others who did likewise) had long held dear. It was a big loss. Yet it was done for the sake of the body of Christ.

Let us put our efforts into becoming who we ought to be.

Today’s Nerd Note: Acts 4 and Communism. Okay, let’s take this one down very quickly: Acts 4:32 is occasionally cited as Biblical grounds for communism. After all, if the early church did it, it must have been godly, right?

First, I’ll give you that: the behavior of the early church in Acts 4:32 is both godly and commendable. It is worthy of replication and emulation within the church, even to this day.

Yet this was not the same thing as some of the modern programs that attempt to cite it as justification. Why? For starters, this was entirely voluntary. Not even the apostles seem to have commanded this behavior. Rather, it appears to be the response of love for one another within the body.

Why the need? Many of the newly converted would have lost social standing or employment due to their allegiance to the questionable sect of Christians (not even called Christians yet!). Some would have still retained means and wealth, but others had lost it all. Many who still had material wealth gave it up to provide for their fellow believers. Yet it was still their private property, and one can see later evidences that certain things were still retained as “their own” even after these times.

This is quite different from the idea that a government entity ought to come and forcefully take from an individual that which is theirs to give it to someone else. It is not a duty in Acts 4, it is joyous provision. It is not, though, joyous provision for the world writ large, either. It is internal to the body.

This is another difference between what you see here and armed confiscation that is advocated in communist ideas: the church certainly has a responsibility to take care of its own, but ought not take from outside to deal with its needs. Likewise, a system that takes from everyone will not hold up—the differences between those everyones will cause the system to rupture.

There are other differences worth mentioning if only to point out that there is no simple parallel here between Peter and Marx: the church has a common morality that answers to Almighty God while communism answers only to whomever holds state power; we do not see the longevity of this system, for all we can tell it was a temporary measure that lasted only a short time and communism claims to be a durable system; these were people that were both unified in faith and understanding of a sin nature while typical communism assumes everyone will be okey-dokey with equal stuff. Which they won’t: the fundamental Biblical response to communism is that communism tends to deny the basic human problem of sin.

The assumption becomes that if everyone has the same stuff, then everyone will get along and there will be no problems. Yet the problem is not the stuff. Stuff-seeking is only a symptom of human depravity. Some people do not exhibit that symptom. Their symptom is violence or rage or sexual excess or racism or any of a host of other issues. Yet the cause remains the same: we are all born bent hard toward sinful behavior and without being made new in Christ, we can never change ourselves.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sermon Wrap-up August 14th

Morning Audio link is here (Alternate here)

Evening Audio Link is here (Alternate here)

If you’d like to subscribe to the sermon audio, click here.

If you want the sermon audio as an iTunes podcast, click here.

Morning Outline:

One of those days...


Ever have "one of those days?"


Luke 8:22-25

It is clear from Scripture that we have been told by the Lord Jesus Christ what to do:

     A. Repent of sin; turn in faith; be born again!


B. Live in holiness; seek and know sound doctrine; personally be devoted Christ


C. Be in unity within the church; defend the church from untruth; strengthen fellow believers


D. Go through life telling people about Jesus and building those that come into disciples


E. Along the way, do not neglect the needs of the family: your family, the Christian family, the               

          human family


These items are not options nor suggestions, they are plain instructions from the Lord Jesus Christ in His Word.

They are as binding upon us as the instruction of Christ to the disciples here: Let us go over to the other side.

Then, He goes down in the boat and takes a nap. Let us not forget that Jesus is both fully God and fully human---the occasional sleep was part of who He is.

More than that, though, there is a teaching point here. How do we respond to the apparent physical absence of Jesus?

Here we find a good parallel for ourselves: Jesus has ascended, and at some point will return. It appears that, perhaps, He has gone to sleep on us.

Yet He has not.

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.

What is love?

Showing love for one another

1 John 4:7-8; 1 Corinthians 13

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Don’t Move Yet! Exodus 40

Ever been ready to go but not sure if you should? Ever been ready to go, loaded up, and have no idea where to go? Imagine if it was not just you on the move, but somewhere between quite a few and generally a lot of Israelites fleeing from the Pharaohnic Armies of Egypt?

Then you would grasp the spot Moses finds himself in during Exodus 40 (link). The Tabernacle is done. The Ark is done. Aaron is dressed and anointed, and the priests are ready. Now, what do we do with all of this stuff? Do we stay here at the foot of the mountain or go elsewhere? Where do we go when we leave?

As we look at this, what we see is that all of the trappings and external service can only go so far. The Israelites have constructed all of those things here. They can gather for worship. They can identify their religious leaders. They even have the Urim and Thummin and the ephod to help them make decisions.

The people have the laws to guide their behavior. They have a history and a heritage to bind their culture together. They have a strong army and a track record of victories in battle.

Yet it’s not enough.

We know this, don’t we? We go through life and we build our religious values and structures. We do this whether we are Christians or Wiccans or Tree-Huggers or Rational Empiricists. We have our locations dedicated to worship, be they mosques or fire-circles. We have our spiritual people identified, with flowers in their hair or up on a stage, surrounded by lights. We have our decision-making apparatus: we see psychologists, therapists, read horoscopes, call talk shows, watch Dr. Phil, talk to our preachers, our teachers, our mentors, and read blogs to see what we should do.

We build and furnish our tents and supply our leaders and lay out our systems. At the end of the day, though, it’s just an empty tent, filled with a thick smoke and watched over by guys in funny robes. That’s it.

That is the result of the endless circles of human-designed religion. Even of human-designed anti-religion, which is really just another religious expression, as it takes a measure of faith to posit that there is no sentience and power beyond the visible. Atheism cannot be proven any better than theism—both cross out of the realm of clear science and into the section written of after physics.

What, then, is the difference? Why are all religions not equally valid? (Not that all religions are not deserving of equal protection before the law and equal freedom of expression.) Why would one choose this religion opposed to that religion?

The answer is most clearly seen at the end of Exodus. The Israelites were not the only ones to have built worship places or outfit priests. They were the ones who had the presence of the Almighty God of the Universe to indwell their religious ceremony.

The Tabernacle and all of its surrounding materials were not built simply from human imagination or even a human attempt to impress God or gods or even fellow man. They were built out of obedience to the direction of God Himself.

Resulting from this, God then verifies that this was His command by settling on the Tabernacle in glory and power. He occupies His Tabernacle and stays there.

When the cloud that emblemized His glory moved, the Israelites moved. When the cloud stayed put, they stayed put.

The Israelites, for all of their grumblings and stumblings, did not move before God commanded and did not stay when He left. That is the right place to be.

It is how we must learn to make our decisions: do not go when God does not, and do not stay when He goes. Do not add to what He says and do not take away from it, either.

Starting off, though, we must ask ourselves this question of all our religious accoutrements: is what I have for worship truly what God has commanded, or is it created of my own ideas?

Being a Christian with a Baptist core, I would argue that the answer lies much as it did in Exodus 40, with following the directions spoken by God. Is what we are doing consistent with the Word of God?

Or have we added in other items to show off ourselves? Have we made fancy what should be plain? Or made simple what is meant to be wondrous and mysterious?

I believe that, based on the Bible as the Word of God, believers in Christ are capable of taking what is in the Word of God and following it. The Holy Spirit works in us to guide us into all truth.

If we do not ask the questions, though, we will never find the answers.. We do need to ask.

Today’s Nerd Note: Sorry to have spent so long on Exodus, counting skipped days. It’s a great book. There are several good resources on Exodus. Read widely, though, as there are many debates regarding the proper historical setting for this text.

First of all, both the ESV Bible Atlas and the Holman Bible Atlas have good sections on the Exodus. Being books of maps, these also give you a good view of routes and consideration of the various possibilities. Either of these are worth having.

Second, there are commentaries, and then there are commentaries. Generally speaking, a commentary is an effort to communicate additional information about passages of Biblical text. Some are highly academic and focus on nuances of language; some focus on history, culture, or even application points in the text. Not all are good, but few remain available that are absolutely bad.

In commentaries, a broad group is helpful if you have time. If you have time for that, though, you likely have time to pick out your own favorites. If you’re short on time, a good start is the NIV Application Commentary Exodus volume. I have read this one, and while there are points of debate, it’s still a good one.

There are additional books that examine issues like the instigation of the Law at Sinai or the Tabernacle itself. Others look at the archaeology and history of the situation. I like Free & Vos’ work Archaeology and Bible History, but there are others. One that I am still looking at is The Bible in World History by Stephen Leston. It looks good.

Good study Bible notes help. The NASB Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, and the Archaeological Study Bible provide good notes for Exodus.

For myself, I am also blessed to have Logos Bible Software, so I have a good bank of resources there.

The critical thing about going to outside resources is this: know the text yourself. Even though most of us are not Hebrew experts, we can know the English text. Know it, and know it well. Read it in a few translations. Then, as you look at external resources, you will be more able to spot the good ones from the not-so-good ones.

The basic hint: if the book starts off by saying that Moses was a mythical figure, it’s probably not taking the text seriously. Also, if the book is excessively dogmatic that 1446 BC is the only acceptable date for the Exodus, then that one may not really open any new ground.

Look for works that take the text seriously but push your understanding. A good study resource or commentary will always push you:

It will push you in to the text.

It will push you up to the Father.

It will you out to your neighbor.

It will push you down to your knees.

If it doesn’t, then it’s a waste of your time and money.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sermon Wrap-Up July 29 and Aug 5

In my younger days, computers were simpler and I knew more of what I was doing with them. Somehow, I have lost that mojo and last week’s sermon wrap-up disappeared.

July 29 Morning Audio (alternate)

July 29 Evening Audio (alternate)

August 5 Morning Audio (alternate)

August 5 Evening Audio (alternate)

July 29 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.

Galatians 4:4-6 as an example to express the presence of the Trinity,

The Baptism of Jesus is also a time that we see all three persons of the Trinity shown in Scripture:

Matthew 3:13-17

What defines this doctrine?

#1: Triune Nature: Three persons of God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit (minor summaries follow)

     A. God the Father: command, direct, send

     B. God the Son: redeem and perfect

     C. God the Holy Spirit: inspire and illuminate

#2: Divinity of all three

#3: Only one God (monotheistic)

It is worth noting that the word "Trinity" is not present in the Bible. Obviously, it's an English word at this point, so that's a no-brainer. It is also not in the original languages, nor is there a word which ought be translated this way.


Instead, it is a word that describes what we find in the Scripture. It is the now-standard term used in Christian theology.


What does this doctrine matter?

#1: A relational God: the Trinity demonstrates that God is not ignorant regarding relationships

#2: A grace-filled God: God did not create people because He was all alone

#3: A working God: Example in prayer: our prayers are said, essentially, to God the Father. The Holy Spirit helps us know what/how to pray, and our prayers are heard because Jesus made it possible that we may come before God

Example in salvation: God the Father has given to Jesus the right and responsibility to judge. The Holy Spirit draws people to the truth of Jesus and His death for our sins, which allows us to be presented as righteous in Jesus before God

August 5 AM Outline

One who has been forgiven much, loves much:

Luke 7:36-50

I. Does not deny the debts of all

II. Love responds to forgiveness

III. Do we understand the depths of our sins?

IV. Our love for others will show how much we understand that God has forgiven us

V. Our love for God reflects how much we admit we have been forgiven

Practical points:

1. Our attitude toward each other

2. Our work as a church

3. Our prayers for others

August 5 PM 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.

1 Corinthians 1:9

1 John 1:2--7

Fellowship, Partnership, Sharing, Participating

Not: in sin or degradation

Yes: in provision and in holiness

July 5 Service Recap

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