Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book: Organic Outreach for Families

 

Today brings another book review from Cross Focused Reviews. The book is by Kevin G & Sherry Harney and is titled Organic Outreach for Families. Published by Zondervan Publishers, it is third in the Organic Outreach Series. The first two are Organic Outreach for Ordinary People and Organic Outreach for Churches.

The fundamental principle of Organic Outreach for Families is to provide guidance for households on spreading the Gospel from home. This aim is addressed in three sections: Reaching Your Own Family; Raising Children of Light in a Dark World; Turning Your Home into a Lighthouse.

These sections build nicely on one another. The first goes into defining the Gospel and providing guidance on seeing the Gospel understood among your own family. This flows well. After all, one will have a great deal of difficulty turning a home into a lighthouse if the darkness holds the home.

Included in this section is a helpful chapter on sharing the Gospel with extended family. Extended family is one of the hardest groups of people to reach in America, it seems. The Harneys present the most important factor in this process: patience, patience, and more patience.

The next section of Organic Outreach for Families delves into one of the more challenging issues for Christian families in this time. (Well, and likely any other time.) That issue is the challenge of keeping a family drawn to the things of God while living in a world that strives to push other things on them. The ideas presented are helpful in general.

The Harneys did well to present which decisions they made as parents, but were generally fair in acknowledging that other choices can be made by God-honoring people. As a homeschool parent, I would have loved a longer discussion about the pros and cons of homeschooling, but that would have distracted from the overall pacing of the book. That may be a book that's not yet been written: a shared consideration of homeschooling, giving equal times to both the pro and con biased people.

Closing up Organic Outreach for Families is the section on specific ideas of how to establish your home as the base of the Gospel in your neighborhood. There are some good baseline ideas here. It is definitely of value to have statements of the methodology used by the Harney family.

It is here, however, that the weakness of this text appears. The suggestions and ideas are definitely of more immediate value in a suburban or urban context than they are in a rural situation. That does not make them useless, just realize that if you live away from a population center, you will need to be creative in your application of this work.

In all, this makes for a good read and discussion.

I did receive a copy of this text in exchange for the review. Book provided through CrossFocusedReviews.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Clean this place up! Leviticus 14

Leviticus has baffled for years, and I think it will continue to baffle for years to come. One benefit of its inclusion in the Christian Bible, though, is that it serves as evidence that the Word was not simply made up by people looking for an easy religion. What nut would spend two chapters going on about infectious skin diseases? Especially in a world where the habit already existed to banish lepers and leave them banished?

However, that just reinforces my own personal presuppositions. I personally hold that Leviticus was written down in the time of Moses, was intended as part of the theocratic rule of Israel, and should be interpreted based on that assumption. In other words, what did a group of Late Bronze Age nomads take Leviticus 14 (link) to mean?

Here are a few highlights:

1. They would have understood that disease would be a lasting problem for them, no matter where they lived. Perhaps leprosy and other infectious skin diseases were actually not that prevalent for them in their nomadic days—we know from modern medicine that one culture may struggle with diseases that another culture has long since beaten, and vice-versa. Whatever the slice on it, the people would have seen clearly here that God knew that disease would be with them, even in the promised land.

Keep in mind: even when you are right where God has placed you, bad things can still happen. Some of those bad things are horrid, like leprosy.

2. They would have seen the forward promise of living in houses. You and I may not catch this, but keep in mind that the people receiving this instruction are living in tents. Not stone houses, certainly not houses that have been plastered over nicely. Inherent in the latter half of the chapter, where the instructions for cleansing a house are given, is the promise of living in a house.

Recognize the blessing promised alongside the instructions about life. This takes knowing the Word and living life.

3. They would have known that there were no quick fixes for their medical issues. Take a look through the whole chapter again. There are waiting periods plus the times of work needed: think it wouldn’t take time to rip out plaster and rock work? Right.

Realize that many of our problems in life do not have quick fixes. They take time and work to repair.

It is really on this last point that I think we need to spend some time. We live in an instant world, where we expect to have everything as quickly as possible. We want diseases immunized against, and cured with a single pill if we actually catch them. We want our wars won in a week, and purchases provided immediately.

And we’re even worse about mental, psychological, or spiritual matters. Our learning should be on a defined, quick schedule: all children should know X by a certain age; all employees will memorize these 7 things for tomorrow; all students will fully grasp the 27 usages of the Greek genitive case this week (and the vocal shewas from Hebrew, too!). We want our depression gone immediately or our anger resolved overnight.

Spiritually, we want God to insta-zap our shortcomings off of us the moment we say “Amen” to end our prayer. To heal our fractured relationships as soon as we know they are fractured.

Life does not work that way, though. We may be able to transfer money in an instant, but we cannot transfer skills that quickly. We cannot transfer ourselves to holiness that quickly.

It takes time. It takes the time to rip out the old, diseased parts. Time to haul them away and dump them. Time to replace the structural works, and then time to be make everything look pretty again.

Time. Because God is working in you for eternity, not for next week.

What areas are you wanting a quick fix in? There is really only one quick fix: the moment of salvation, where a sinner is saved for eternity. Yet after that, it’s a time taking, effort using process.

Can you wait? Can you hope? Can you endure?

Today’s Nerd Note: One should not take Leviticus as specifically binding in practice for Gentiles, unless the principle or practice is specifically reinforced in the New Testament, but one can take guidance from the text.

For example, this passage gives us a very definite, practical step. It’s called the garbage dump. Really, Leviticus 14:40 and the other verses that refer to the “place outside the city.” Here we have a very practical principle: biomedical hazardous waste should not be just piled outside your door.

It is principles and ideas just like this one that lead to what is called “Redemption and Lift.” Those terms go together to describe some of the natural outworkings of the Gospel entering a culture. Those who adopt the process of getting hazardous waste far from their homes, among other cleanliness guidelines from the Old Testament, will tend to live healthier lives than their neighbors.

That health translates to more wealth, longer lifespans, and better educational options. In turn, more wealth, longer lifespans, and better education leads to better health. Then, in time, those same Christians are able to return and serve their neighbors, because God has blessed them with the material and physical ability to do so, and the Gospel remains proclaimed in those areas.

Unless, of course, a whole nation profits from those effects and then decides to hold on to the public health ideas while abandoning the Gospel. But no one would do that, right? We would never forget how we got where we are and Who it was that helped us get there, would we?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

None of My Business: Acts 18

Christianity keeps spreading throughout the Roman Empire. In the process, it begins to separate from the Judaism that it originated from. This leads to a great deal of tension between the two groups of people, especially as people leave one for the other.

Meanwhile, life in Rome goes on. The Empire goes about its business, the usual business of Empires: conquest, trade, taxation, commerce, and circuses. Empires are about those items and seldom are truly concerned with religious matters. Historically speaking, religion has been co-opted by governments for their own ends, but rarely has that been good for any religious group.

Paul, meanwhile, is not focused on imperial matters. He is focused, instead, on the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the pursuit of the passion, he’s gone from place to place, and now he finds himself in Corinth. Starting off, he splits time between making tents and preaching, but once his team of Silas and Timothy arrive, he focuses his whole effort on the preaching work.

Interstitial nerd note: there is something here to be gathered regarding vocational ministry. Paul sets two examples here: 1 is that when necessary and helpful, he worked with his hands to provide; 2 is that when necessary and helpful, he worked solely at the spread and teaching of the Gospel and others handled the provision. Both the “never pay a preacher” and the “pay a full-time preacher” arguments can be found in Paul’s behavior in Corinth. Meaning? That one must do what is necessary based on the situation.

Eventually, the spread of the Gospel throughout both the Jewish and Gentile communities of Corinth leads to rioting. Alongside the riot, the Roman Proconsul is asked to mediate the religious dispute. He, showing some political acumen, backs out of the argument. His statement: this nonsense has nothing to do with me, my laws, and my responsibilities. Solve it yourselves.

Well, the rioting occurs, the synagogue leader gets beat up by his own people, and Paul goes on with this business. The verse in Acts 18 (link) that I would key on for this? Acts 18:17, where the text records that Gallio, the proconsul, was “not concerned about any of these things.”

We need to keep this in mind: the world does not care one bit about the internal religious arguments of the church. End of story.

There may be feigned interest, but really what the world sees in a religious squabble is a reason to avoid religious people altogether. Certainly we do not need to expect the outside world to fix our problems—we should fix those ourselves. No one else will actually care, much as Gallio does not.

Now, what do we do with this?

1. Of all the lessons in Acts about the church, one keeps repeating. It’s here as well: the business of the church is its own, and the world will at best be indifferent. Normally, it’s hostile.

2. Be certain we grab hold of help from the right angles. Every where you look, it appears that someone wants to tell the church what to do: the media. Celebrities. Wannabe no-good bloggers that spend all day trying to write a blog post. Methodists want to fix Baptists and Baptists, Presbyterians. The world wants to fix the Anglican Communion by pulling it left and others want to pull it right.

We want to be certain our help comes from the right place: the Word of God and those committed to that Word.

3. Avoid dragging our petty fights into public. Now, to be clear, if criminal activity is found, then take it to the legal authorities. (In a situation were the laws are clearly ungodly, that’s a different story—if the situation is clear.) However, if you are upset about which hymn you sang last week, do you really need to bicker that out over dinner in public? Not bloomin’ likely, mate.

Of course, the blog world becomes a gray zone on this one. Blogs and discussion groups allow people to connect that never encounter each other in public. That connection then leads to discovering petty issues that aren’t petty when they are a pattern of behavior—but neither are they private. Taking a personal beef to a blog is not always the best route, but it is sometimes the only one.

4. Finally, do not count on the world’s help when you are right. Stay focused on doing what is right, and let the rest come as it may.

Today’s Nerd Note: We meet Apollos here. Good chap, Apollos, in Acts 18:24-28. Evidence that learning and passion are good starting points, and that clarity of instruction is the crucial ending point.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sermon Wrap-Up November 26

Sunday, November 25 Morning Sermon (Audio Link)

Luke 17:22-37

I. Thankful for the promise of the future

II. Thankful for the sustaining grace of God

III. Thankful for the future life

IV. Thankful for deliverance in chaos

Questions for kids:

1. How many people got on the ark? 

2. Will Jesus come back secretly or obviously? How will we know He came back?

3. Lot's wife was turned into what?

4. Was that because she just looked or is there more?

Thanksgiving Service (Audio Link)

“Do I not fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord”

(Jeremiah 23:24)

I. What to be thankful for? The Omnipresence of God


II. What in the world is that? Let us consult with John Wesley

To shew how we are to understand this glorious truth, God is in this, and every place. The psalmist, you may remember, speaks strongly and beautifully upon it, in Psalm 139...In a word, there is no point of space, whether within or without the bounds of creation, where God is not.

III. Why? 

     A. Connection of Omnipresence with Omnipotence: Listen to Wesley:

Nay, and we cannot believe the omnipotence of God, unless we believe his omnipresence. For seeing (as was observed before) nothing can act where it is not; if there were any space where God was not present, he would not be able to do anything there: therefore, to deny the omnipresence of God, implies likewise the denial of his omnipotence. To set bounds to the one is, undoubtedly, to set bounds to the other also.

     B. Connection of Omnipresence with other attributes of God: mercy, justice:

Indeed, wherever we suppose him not to be, there we suppose all his attributes to be in vain. He cannot exercise there either his justice or mercy, either his power or wisdom. In that extramundane space (so to speak), where we suppose God not to be present, we must, of course, suppose him to have no duration; but as it is supposed to be beyond the bounds of the creation, so it is beyond the bounds of the Creator’s power. Such is the blasphemous absurdity which is implied in this supposition.

IV. Of all the concepts for us this Thanksgiving, let us remember to be thankful that:

There is no place that He is not, no matter where we go---what a comfort!

There is no place that He is not, no matter how disastrous--what a provision!

There is no place that He is not, no matter how opposed to Him---what a grace!

There is no place that He is not, no matter how alone--what a companion!

Friday, November 23, 2012

You get under my skin: Leviticus 13

When you are starting a society from scratch, everything has to be dealt with. Not only must property laws and morality laws be presented, but personal protection must be addressed. Additionally, laws and practices for public health have to be put in place. After all, you are taking a diverse lot of people that have lived semi-isolated lives and now they have to live together.

This is an important part of the context of Leviticus 13 (link). The people of Israel have been living in Egypt, and the truth is we do not know for certain the conditions they have lived with. We know that the conditions of their slavery were less than pleasant, but that does not clue us in for their life situation. It is also likely that the Egyptians handled enforcement of public health in their kingdom: sometimes by exile, sometimes by execution.

Coming back to the text, what is present here are the instructions of how to deal with infectious skin disease in the community. While some people will find a great many spiritual applications and parallels in this passage, I think this is a point where we need to remember one of the fundamental keys of Biblical interpretation:

The text does not have a meaning that it has never had.

When you consider what a text might possibly mean in the Scriptures, you must consider how the original recipients of it would have taken it. Would the original Israelite audience have thought of spiritual parallels or allegories for sin?

Not likely. They would have read it as directions for how to deal with literal people with literal illnesses, facing literal separation from their families and communities unless they got better from their illness. Which, given the situation, was not that likely.

Since we are looking at the health code of an ancient society, what do we do with it? Do we establish our religious leaders as health inspectors? (Speaking as a religious leader, I’ll pass on that.)

Instead, I would propose these ideas:

1. We should take infectious diseases seriously. In all honesty, there are times that we do not. We, instead, take habit, tradition, or custom more seriously. Take your responsibility not to share your diseases with others seriously.

2. Wash your dishes. And your clothes. That’s the ending segment of the chapter: keep clean stuff, so that you don’t get sick.

3. Get a professional opinion. This is the recurring theme of the chapter: the person who has the disease does not decide if it’s bad. A third-party person makes that call. Don’t assume you are lethal or safe. Get someone who knows.

These are just basic health tips. And those are worth knowing. Keep in mind that the Christian life is lived in the midst of the practical, physical world. It is not just about spiritual elements and heavenly considerations, but about the whole of existence.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Do you remember what happened? Me neither. Acts 17

Paul and Silas continue on their missionary journey. Acts 17 (link) has some of the most oft-preached portions of the missionary journeys:

1. That Paul had a “custom” of going to the synagogue is used to encourage customary church attendance.

2. The Bereans “diligent search” of the Scriptures to check on Paul’s message is a valued reminder not to trust the messenger alone, but to use the text to evaluate the message.

3. The time in Athens is used to justify the study of pagan literature and as an example of preaching the Gospel in completely untouched situations.

All of these are well and good. There may be some scrutiny that should be brought to bear on our interpretations of those passages, whether or not we are really seeing what is intended there. However, in general, there’s a lot of material out there about these, so we’re not going to spend much time here.

Instead, let’s go just one sentence in: “Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia.”

Quick, name all that you know about the churches in Amphipolis and Apollonia. Got it? That did not take long, did it?

We do not know anything about church expansion in Amphipolis. We do not even know if there was a church planted in Apollonia. We know, basically, nothing. It’s possible that Paul and Silas just passed through, did nothing but spend the night. Whatever occurred, it is lost to our understanding of the New Testament.

How does this matter to us?

Speaking as one who sometimes thinks nothing he does will be remembered, it matters like this:

Not everything that happens is recorded and remembered. Sometimes, it just happens.

I think the life of an innkeeper or stable boy, perhaps a server at dinner, was impacted by the coming through of Paul and Silas. There was an interaction, a moment, and it was not important enough to be recorded. Perhaps a church was started, but being so close to Thessalonica and Philippi it never got its own letter. Maybe it was just an “ordinary” church with normal problems, and so it just kind of…existed. Reached some of their neighbors. Had a few fights. Got over them, and went on…

Or the important truth runs the other direction: a tired and hungry Paul and Silas find an inn, where an innkeeper rewarms the dinner she had already served. Space is made on the couch, for the inn is full. The missionary party is fed, rested, and sallies forth the next day, onward to spread the Gospel. Illnesses due to exposure are avoided, irritability due to hunger is reduced, and the message remains the focus.

The truth is that many of us will go through life and, if we had a TARDIS to jump ahead and read the history books, find that little to nothing of what we did will be recorded for history.

We need to be okay with that. Life is about making the most of the opportunities put in front of us, not about making a name for ourselves.

Besides, that makes us that much more mysterious for future generations…

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book: Christmas Uncut

This book review is brought to you by Cross Focused Media. They send me a book. I read the book. I write a review. The folks at CFM do not know if I will like the book or not, and do not insist that I speak highly of the book. So, book exchanged for review and that’s it.

Most of us have our own understanding of the Christmas story. Usually it is an amalgamation of both the Biblical story and various storybooks, movies, and Christmas plays. Admittedly, some of our information is warped. There are things that we honestly cannot know and other fragments of the story get filled in by guesses and historical estimation.

Into this milieu is where the book Christmas Uncut by Carl Laferton comes. Here’s a look at the cover and a link for more sales info:

Christmas Uncut: What Really Happened and Why It Really Matters... 

What do we find here?

1. This is a short book. 62 pages. Which is good, given the price. Also, the length makes it easy to include this book in a tight reading schedule. Obviously, brevity cuts the other direction: the detail-hungry among us will finish this book wanting more. That cannot be helped, though.

2. The book is easy to read: it is structured as if presenting several acts of a play. This cuts the story down into bite-size chunks, each focusing on a different portion of the Christmas story.

3. The book finishes the story: there is a closing section that addresses how the Christmas story fits in with the fullness of Biblical Christianity. That’s valuable: the book’s best use is as a giveaway or discussion book. This closing section gives a follow-up: Christmas is about more than a baby in a manger, but about the coming of the Lord Jesus, who came to be not just a baby in a manger but also to be the man on the Cross.

4. The book runs with a tagline of “What really happened and why it really matters…” The “why it really matters” part is a win. However, for me, the “What really happened” part is a bit oversold. This may be more due to my line of work as a pastor and Bible-nerd: I have already seen and heard many of what Laferton puts forward as surprising: the scandals and the mayhem. That does not do much damage to the work: the reminder hurts no one and some may have never heard this, so it’s valuable information.

5. Christmas Uncut also feeds in a cute story of a children’s play. These little vignettes really put a light-side into the story and make it a great read.

In all, if you want a brief look at Christmas, one that will hold the attention of a reader that may not want to ferret the details from the midst of the whole Bible, pick this up. If you have a small Bible study/inquiry group that wants to dig in, this makes a good pick up in bulk-pricing direct from the publishers, TheGoodBook Company.

Reminder: I got one free from the publisher in exchange for reviewing it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Oh boy. Leviticus 12

Apologies for the long silence. There are just times when the words don’t flow. And times when the words don’t flow and the next writing task is a big challenge.

Working through the whole Bible, we come to one of those odd passages. Actually, one of the oddest passages outside of prophetic visions in the Old Testament. It’s Leviticus 12 (link), where the rules of purification after childbirth are given.

This is an odd situation. There are a few things to hold to as we look at this:

1. Do not confuse the need for “purification” with the need for “forgiveness.” While there are overlaps in the vocabulary, not everything in the Old Testament that needed purified meant that sin had occurred. This passage should not be taken to indicate that childbirth is sinful.

2. Then we get to the real touchy part of the chapter. Why in the world are the purification rites different for a son than for a daughter? Let’s break this down:

A. The first option is the view that sons are more valuable than daughters or more approved or that it’s more sinful to have a daughter. This view must be rejected outright. One can find in Scripture support for differing views on roles and responsibilities for men and women, but no place can be found that devalues one gender in contrast to another.

B. The second option is a view that looks at the partnership between purification of the mother and purification of the child. Old Testament law held circumcision of male children as a component of their purification. Since the male child could be circumcised, he went through part of the purification and the mother does the rest. Daughters did not undergo a similar rite (anatomy forbids it—there is no cause or justification for the wickedness that is practiced against women/girls in some places in this world) and so the mother thereby had to spend the whole time of purification. Overall, this view may have some value.

C. The third option is this: in many societies, especially those with a more primitive lifestyle, males are more valued than females. Now, a qualifier: primitive is not intended as insulting here. It simply means not advanced. As in places where life is a hardcore struggle for survival and one kills and grows all of your own food, not shops for most of it.

In those societies, it is tempting to provide baby girls less care than baby boys. The first few months of life are crucial, especially in those more primitive situations. Left to our own devices, we tend to focus on providing for those who can do for us, provide for us.

By mandating that a mother spend eighty days in purification for a daughter instead of the forty for a son, the Law establishes a pattern that provides an extra measure to insure care for daughters. Rather than being an “anti-woman” type of measure, this is actually very “pro-woman.” This is another possibility of how to interpret this passage.

So, what do we do with it?

We could make an argument for longer maternity leaves based on it. I’m not sure that’s the valid Biblical viewpoint here, but it is a potentially viable idea. We certainly do not live in the theocratic society of the time, and so cannot make it the law. Nor would we want to--

How does this work for us?

I think the key is in the third option above. Even if that’s theologically tenuous, we should see here a passage of Scripture that reminds us that all life is valuable. Boys and girls. Men and women. We must fight the tendency in any society to pick and choose our favorites and degrade others. That must cut back across gender lines, racial lines, ethnic lines, cultural lines…the Gospel of Jesus Christ is radically incompatible with prejudice. Radically incompatible with foolish judgment. Radically incompatible with a culture that kills off the inconvenient.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sermon Wrap-Up Nov 18

Audio Link Here

Note: I am going to be moving to a single server for audio at the end of the month. I’ve used up my free trial year for Amazon Web Services and cannot quite make heads or tails of their billing structures. So, I’ll be using a flat-rate service instead. In preparation, I’m going to go ahead and stop posting dual links now.

Luke 17:11-21

United in misery

United in rejection

United in healing

Will we be united in rejoicing?

Application points:

1. National--and our shortcomings are evident

2. Church--how do we do with it?

3. Personal--among our friends and family?

4. Will we be right, even when all others are wrong?

Questions:

1. Where was Jesus traveling through in the story? Where was Jesus going to in the story?

2. Was the thankful man from Galilee?

3. How can you show that you are thankful?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sermon Wrap-Up November 11 2012

Morning Audio Link Here (Alternate Here)

Subject: The Reality of Life


     There is more to life than the human experience between birth and death

Central Theme:

     Focus point: the immediacy of choosing to believe what God has told us


Objective Statement:

Every person can know God by believing what God has said.


Rationale:

     1. This not sheerly about wealth

     2. This is about our attitude regarding wealth

     3. This is about how we handle what God has said


     4. This is about our response to the reality of eternity

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mission Minded Munching: Leviticus 11

Just as an observation: taking a quick read at “The Gospel for Shrimp” would not hurt you going in to this chapter. Why? We’re coming strongly into the parts of Leviticus that must be considered in the context of the fullness of Scripture and not just line-by-line.

That is one of the major issues facing the modern reader of Scripture: we do not read enough. Actually, it’s more that we do not comprehend in long enough blocks. Either because we learned to read so that we could answer nit-pick quiz questions or to hit page requirements, our reading abilities tend to fail us on comprehension of large blocks of text.

You can see it away from Scripture in the bumper stickers that quote J.R.R. Tolkien as saying “Not all who wander are lost.” It’s an accurate quote. Usually, though, it is applied as a “Do your own thing” anthem. The whole context of Lord of the Rings? The quote applies to Aragorn, son of Arathorn. It’s attached to him when he is protecting the wide lands of the North as a Ranger. He’s not aimlessly wandering: it is part of the heritage of his family and part of his path to the throne of the kingdom. In all of his “wandering” he remains faithful to the truth as it is known in Middle-Earth. In short—it’s a lousy quote in context if you want to validate a life of mushy detachment from objective truth.

Coming back to the point of Scripture: Leviticus 11 (link) starts us into the list of details of life for theocratic Israel in the Iron Age. We start with the famous dietary laws. Does it divide the hoof and chew the cud? Does it have scales or skin? Is it a bat? A locust or a grasshopper? Owls or ducks?

Check it according to the principle and the list before you decide to eat it. Check it before you sacrifice it. Avoid the unclean stuff for either purpose and everything will go alright.

Why?

Get through the list to the end of the chapter to Leviticus 11:45. The exact reasons, though they are interesting to contemplate, are unclear beyond this one: this is about obeying God and upholding His holiness. Were there particular reasons for the no-pig rule?

Maybe it was just about making the Israelites look odd to the world around them. Maybe it was just about making dining amidst unbelievers a little bit of a problem. Maybe it was just about making all of life stand apart from the world at-large.

When you place the whole of the Bible together, that is what you really see starting to happen here. The people of Israel were called out to be the Royal Priesthood of God—one of their purposes was to declare God’s glory among the nations (Psalm 96:3). This took more than just a different Temple than everyone else had.

It took a different lifestyle. One that evidence obedience to God about things that otherwise would not matter. A lifestyle that stood separate from the world and was visibly different to the people that were not in agreement theologically and spiritually.

So how does this work for us?

Understanding that Israel was Israel and the Church is the Church, and the two are not exactly identical, there are still things here for the believer in Jesus. What we need to understand is this:

1. We are going to be surrounded by cultures that are different from us in principle and in practice. Israel was. We are.

2. Our religious practices are going to be automatically different: worship that looks identical to a different religion is, well, not Christian. It’s either syncretism of two religions or completely the other one.

3. Differing religious practices are not enough. When’s the last time you dropped in an Odin service just to compare systems? You don’t do it. Why would those we want to come to Christ just drop by?

4. Our lifestyle has to be visibly different in every day life if we are going to truly reflect the God we serve.

5. Down to the meals we eat, our lives should be mission minded.

Not saying we follow the exact dietary laws, but we consider the principle: Why?

And we act based on that.

Today’s Nerd Note: An important add-in consideration of the passage is this: God gives not only a list of clean/unclean but the principle to apply to new animals not known to the Israelites.

What does that mean?Zoology is pretty clear that local flora and fauna are pretty consistent: God could have specified for Israel based on the food choices available there. After all, the Promised Land was where the people were headed.

Instead, the principle is given and then local possibilities were used to illustrate it. What does this tell us?

It was never God’s intention that the people who worshiped Him to be restricted only to the Syro-Palestine area. Even in the Law we find the expectation that people will need to determine what should and should not be eaten in areas not yet explored, animals not yet named.

Think about what that means for you.

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it ...