Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Eve Service

Well, this is embarrassing. I was supposed to post the Christmas Eve Service. I recorded a few of the observations, but the audio just does not add in well. So, here it is in text. Fill in your favorite versions of the songs, and Merry Christmas. Or at least Joyous Epiphany.

Christmas Eve 12/24/2012

Scripture Reading  1 Corinthians 13:13

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV)

Congregational Singing  O Little Town of Bethlehem -196 

Scripture Reading  Scripture: Romans 8:22-25   

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:22–25, ESV)

Congregational Singing  What Child Is This - 198 

Congregational Singing  O Come, All Ye Faithful -  199

Congregational Singing  Good Christian Men, Rejoice -  183 

Scripture Reading  Scripture: Matthew 1:18-21

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”” (Matthew 1:18–21, NASB95)

Congregational Singing  How Great Our Joy -202 

Congregational Singing  Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come -  181

Scripture Reading  Luke 2:8-14   

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, Good will toward men.” (Luke 2:8–14, KJV 1900)

Congregational Singing  Away in a Manger -  205 

Congregational Singing  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel - 175

Special Music: Mary, Did You Know?

Message  1 John 3:1-3, 1:5   

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:1–3, NASB95)

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5, NASB95)

Shine the Light of God's Love to those around you:

1. by knowing Him

2. by serving Him

3. by sharing Him

Congregational Singing w/Lighting of Candles  Silent Night, Holy Night 206 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sermon Wrap-Up December 23

It’s the Sunday before Christmas! Whatever the exact date should be, this has long been the time when the churches of the Living God have celebrated the birth of the Savior. Perhaps because it aligns well with the longing for light in the darker parts of the year—though the latitudes of the early church would have been less attracted to that than many of us are. Still, more important than the timing is this: God is with us, Immanuel. So, here you go:

Sermon Audio is Here (Click the link, which takes you to a post with the audio player.)

John 1:14-18 //Love: 

Open with Scrooge...."I wish to be left alone....."


Love does not leave us alone:

1. Does not leave us alone in the face of world crises

2. Does not leave us alone in the face of personal crises

3. Does not leave us alone in the face of spiritual need

4. Does not leave us alone in the face of personal action

5. Does not leave us alone in the face of church action

Here’s the Video:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I had grand intentions of getting lots of writing done this week, but it’s not happening. Honestly, it’s not happening next week either. So, over the next few days you can expect:

The Christmas Eve Service outline from church, Sunday’s sermon from church, and possibly a book review that has to be done.

Coming back in January, I will be back to my more frequent but still not-predictable schedule. Look for:

Monday sermon posts

Tuesday and Thursday posts from the Through the Whole Bible Series.

Wednesday or Friday will see books, including: The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek; Devotions on the Greek New Testament; Conviction to Lead; Grace by Max Lucado; Tender Warrior; a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien; and a novel that is fifth in a series but that I now want the whole series of: The Tainted Coin. That’s a medieval mystery is quite good.

So, until then, Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book: Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet

Again we see a book post supported by Cross Focused Reviews and their willingness to swap a free book for a book review.

Today, we take a look at John Currid’s contribution to the Welwyn Commentary Series. Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet is published by EP Books and is one of 38 books available in that series. I must admit to having no prior experience with the Welwyn Series before this book, so there is no comparing it to other volumes.

From Bitter to Sweet reads easily. I would count it as a commentary for anyone willing to invest more than a cursory reading of the text. The text is broken into 13 pericopes, grouped into five thematic parts.

Obviously, Ruth is not the longest book of the Bible, so one would not expect a book about Ruth to be long. From Bitter to Sweet hits just under 140 pages. Certainly part of the typical “commentary” weight is shaved off by not including the full text of the Scripture under consideration. Which is actually a reasonable idea: most people are using commentaries for Bible study and have Bibles. Why reprint the text from a common translation?

Among the benefits of this text on Ruth are these:

  • Points to Ponder sections for each chapter: these segments give a direct application concept for each block of verses. These usually involve an illustrating narrative to make the point.
  • Theological and linguistic terms explained: rather than rely on the reader’s knowledge of Hebrew, Currid explains not only vocabulary but concept terminology. That’s helpful for the reader who has no working knowledge of the Hebrew.
  • A positive spin: that’s the best I can state it. From Bitter to Sweet is aimed to recognize the good in the work of God as revealed in the text. Currid does not make light of sin, but makes much more of the work of God.

The drawbacks I find are these:

  1. Endnotes. I don’t know if it’s the author or the publisher, or the series editor. Endnotes annoy me, especially in a book that cites other sources. I would like to see those references on the page they belong with.
  2. Not a lot of nerd-stuff. The goal of the commentary is to be more practical, but I would have liked a little more authorship discussion. And maybe a map, showing the geographic setting.

Now, a few neutral points:

  • From Bitter to Sweet is definitely written from a Westminster Catechism perspective. Or, if you like, a Reformed perspective. Keep in mind, almost all theological works have a perspective on which they are based. This one leans that way.
  • The Scripture references are either drawn from the ESV or are from the author’s own translation.

If you are looking to peer behind a surface reading of the text of Ruth, this book will aid you well in that pursuit.

Note: free book in exchange for the review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Royal We: Acts 20

Moving forward into Acts 20 (link), I want to comment on something we haven’t seen since Acts 16, but is integral to the story. More than that, it’s integral to our understanding of the growth of Christianity.

What is it?

The use of “we” in the narration. Our tradition and scholarship points to Luke as the author of Acts, and so we gather this: when Acts refers to the events occurring with “We” that tells us that Luke is present in the situation.

Some of Acts is simply history, recorded under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and likely based in eyewitness account and personal recollection. Those segments are as valuable as the others, because that “inspiration of the Holy Spirit” phrase means something: there is no one part of the Bible that is better than another part. Some might be easier to apply, but none are superior to others.

Some of Acts, though, is the recollections of a person who was right there, in the midst of the action. Luke is in the middle of things. He was there when Eutychus died in the middle of church. He was there when Paul raised Eutychus and then finished his sermon. And keep in mind: Luke is a physician—if Paul had to raise Eutychus, that means Eutychus was all the way dead: no medical help would help, or Luke could have handled it.

Luke was there at the painful farewell to the Ephesians. Luke was there to know what Paul had faced. He was there, and knew the heart and soul of both the preacher and the people. He was there, and heard Paul’s warning that men would arise and try to mislead the church. Perhaps this was part of Luke’s reason for writing.

We can take this away from the situation, though:

Christianity does not call for passive observers but active participants.

Now, you may come alongside and watch us, but at some point, a person must either join in or reject the life that is believing that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Kings. As the Spirit and power of God move you to that point, you are certainly welcome to observe. Please understand, however, that you are observing through dirty glass and mis-aimed mirrors: none of us quite reflect properly the truth, and so you need to look broadly and also look to the source.

You will, eventually, be in or out, but for now, watch as you will. I’m not really after you on this one.

Who am I after?

The person that thinks Christianity is about sitting in a pew, or a movie theater seat, or their recliner, and watching. There is no place for that. Scripture knows nothing of an uninvolved Believer in God. Not even of one whose main job is to record what happens: there is no evidence that any author of any portion of Scripture was not involved in the events that they recorded.

(Within reason, of course, since Moses records several thousand years and was only involved about 120 of them, and the authors of the Books of the Kings were likely not involved in every century they recorded. Still, they were a part of what happened when they were alive.)

You do not get to sit back and just watch it happen.

Not and call yourself a Christian. There is an active pursuit of obedience that is necessary.

So get out there and make certain that the record of the Kingdom of God can be written by you in the First Person Plural. If you aren’t part of “we” then you are missing the point.

Nerd Note:

Actually, preacher note: Don’t preach people to death unless you know you can raise them from the dead: Eutychus.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Thoughts

Yesterday, our choir did their presentation. Since we don’t have rebroadcast rights, there’s nothing to post here. So, I’ll post you a few quick thoughts:

Isaiah, speaking of Christmas. Well, specifically of Christ, but several hundred years in advance:

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined…For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: And the government shall be upon his shoulder: And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, To order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice From henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6–7, KJV)

No matter the darkness, the Child is born, and for us He is all these.

John, speaking after Christmas, but looking back:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:1–5, KJV)


Comment: folks, there is darkness out there. Sometimes, it clumps up and comes out in one place or through one person, and that’s been happening constantly throughout history. Sometimes, it’s spread out and affects small pockets.

Herein lies our hope: there is light that outshines the darkness. The Light of Christ. Shine it, and let the rest be done.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review: Show Me How to Share Christ in the Workplace

Today’s Book Review is presented by Kregel Publishers. They sent me a book. I read it. You decide if it’s worth more of your time.

I have previously looked at R. Larry Moyer’s Show Me How to Preach Evangelistic Sermons and companion Show Me How to Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (here). Today, we’re taking a look at another in the Show Me How…Series. It’s titled Show Me How to Share Christ in the Workplace. The book looks like this:

Image and it’s published by Kregel Publications. (Who are fast becoming one of my favorite publishers, even if they do too short a run on a few books I liked…)

It’s late on a Friday, so I will cut to the chase for you on this book:

If you need an easy-to-follow guide to help you and your fellow Christians at work see more clearly how to openly spread the Gospel, pick up Share Christ in the Workplace, read it, and talk about it.


I. Moyer is far from condescending. Too many times I read books about evangelism from passionate preachers that could be summarized in this manner: “The rest of you are not as awesome and spiritual as me, so let me hold your little hands and fix you.” Moyer’s tone is beyond this. He reaches for the “I know you want this, but are uncertain how.” He is helpful and not insulting.

II. Moyer puts prayer first. Any evangelism strategy is doomed without the power of God. There are some points in later chapters that are similar to methods I have seen in sales training, and I have never liked equating evangelism and sales. However, seeing the primary focus on prayer puts those expressions in a clearer light and makes them more acceptable.

III. Moyer emphasizes the importance of living in a manner consistent with your witness. This is critical, and he also highlights how work ethic and work ethics are part of this. This is well done.

In all, this was a good read. Improvement would be found in dealing with more hostile workplaces and with more labor intensive work—many of the ideas presented will work in white-collar situations better than in blue-collar ones, but the wisdom is still applicable.

As I said above, Show Me How to Share Christ in the Workplace is worth having.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

ICK! Leviticus 15

Note: due to author squeamishness, today’s Through the Whole Bible post will be somewhat vague and unclear. Why? It’s Leviticus 15 (link). Read through it. If the subject headers of “Instructions about Bodily Discharges” are not evidence enough, read the whole chapter. There’s plenty of icky here, not for the squeamish types.

These are the passages that you need to either ask your own pastor about or pick up a good commentary on Leviticus. I will not be going into details here, except to highlight that one possible interpretation of the first half of the chapter relates the situation to venereal diseases (STDs) and would have quarantined a person from interaction in the community and stopped disease spread. That’s uncertain, but possible.

The second half addresses the impurity that comes monthly for women. The major note here is that it is seen as separate from impurity that comes from sin. Those impurities are addressed elsewhere: here is simply the fact that a lady who is discharging blood must be counted as unclean. The post-menstrual offerings are the offering of birds that were obtainable for all, and the reference to one as a sin offering should be seen as an offering related to all as sinners, not that she sinned by having that time of the month.

One can get bogged down here, and so I want to turn your attention to one of the New Testament incidents that highlights the effect of these laws. If you click in your Bibles (or tap!) around Mark 5:25-34, Matthew 9:20-22, or Luke 8:43-48, you will find the story of a woman who has been suffering with a discharge for twelve years of her life. That is, she has been unclean and unable to join with the religious and social life of her community for twelve years. Additionally, all of her possessions, everything she touched was all counted unclean.

It is entirely likely that, had she any relationships at all, those relationships were weak and distant. Or that they were only in contact when those women were “unclean,” but it’s likely she was avoided all the more in those times in case her condition was contagious. She is alone, isolated, and financially devastated.

And then she up and violates Leviticus 15:27, too, because she touches Jesus. Had He been any other man, He would have panicked. Here was ceremonial defilement, hitting Him in a crowd. Here was a ban from the Temple. Here was ritual trouble.

Except the point of the Law was typically this: uncleanness spreads from one to another, just as darkness fills the areas around dim lights.

And Jesus was no dim light.

In Him the fullness of God was found in human form. In Him was Light, Light that shines in a darkness that can neither overcome it nor even comprehend it!

Instead of uncleanness coming to Christ, clean healing flowed out from Him to the lady in need. She was healed. Lifted out of the isolation of life.

And here we find the use of the Law and its value to us:

The Law shows us where we are in need, but coming to Christ in faith brings us the healing from those needs. Whether the need is because of our willful sin or just the ordinary accumulation of life, we need His healing.

Grab it. As best you can.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Calling Your Bluff in the Buff: Acts 19

Paul and company have traveled onward. (What, you thought that if I didn’t blog it, it didn’t happen? Right…words can hurt, but reality is whatever it is, whether you say it or not.)

They have traveled, whilst Apollos is in Corinth doing some teaching, over to Ephesus. Paul preaches and people come to faith in Christ. It’s a truly beautiful situation. For the first time, it seems that Paul is going to preach without the Judaizers causing problems or even without causing too much controversy with the Jews themselves. (Remember, the Judaizers were the ones who thought that being a good Christian required one to first live according to Jewish law.) He does end up leaving the synagogue and teaching in a Gentile school room, but that was going to happen: eventually, the Jews that did not want the Gospel would not want the Gentiles.

Side note: a drive for “racial purity” is completely inconsistent with the Gospel: if you have the Gospel, you want all people that God has created to hear it and you are willing to fellowship throughout life with all who are your fellow Believers. No lines, no segregation. If you want a Sunday meeting or a life only for those just like you, you don’t want the Gospel. Even if you put “Church” on the building.

This chapter then gives us a couple of contrasting stories about the power of God. First, we get the picture that God is working through Paul to heal people and anoint people with the Holy Spirit. Even a handkerchief that Paul had touched carried the power of God to people and evil spirits went out from them.

By contrast, there were the seven sons of Sceva the Priest. These seven were going about, commanding evil spirits to leave people. They even called on the name of Jesus when they did so. Except when they did this, the evil spirit called their bluff and beat them out into the buff.

It just did not work without the seven sons having their own faith in Christ.

Now, we could take the wrong lesson from this, and many have. Here are the wrong lessons:

  1. Prayer hankies, blessed by preachers, to heal you. Seriously, folks, that’s nonsense. Especially since it’s usually connected to a request for money. There is nothing in the text here that indicates Paul came up with this idea—it appears that it just happened, people realized it, and praised God for it.
  2. The extended nonsense: the Greek word for handkerchief and for apron can relate to towels/headbands related to sweat. And so it’s the perspiration of the Apostle that’s helpful, so we should all collect some preacher sweat. Please, please: do not send those people your life savings. If a minister won’t pray for you just because you ask for it, find a different one.
  3. The “At least make sure the demons know your name” debacle: the evil spirit admits to having “heard of” Paul, and so we should make sure the demons know our names. Christian, your job has absolutely nothing to do with demons. It has everything to do with glorifying God. Demons might get in the way and have to be dealt with by the power of God, but if your plan includes seeking anything from the demonic, it is wrong. End of story.

We need to actually look at the text and get past these. The text actually gives us a enough to grasp what is happening in this situation.

And it is not about: Hankies, sweat bottles, or even Paul.

It is about the power of the God, shown through His Holy Spirit, and expressed in worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Look again: there is a continuity of expressions regarding “the evil spirit” throughout Acts 19:11-16. That “The” is important in Greek, and it’s important in English. We’re dealing with the same problem, probably the same person and people: the Sons of Sceva, not being Believers, cannot do anything about the evil when they are in front of it. Paul, with the aid of other Believers, does not even need to be present.

The power is in God and is mediated through His people. Not through those who can cite the right rites. Only through those whose hearts are God’s in the first place.

What happens next?

The best thing for church growth: FEAR. Fear of people? No. Only injustice and unrighteous need fear the church. It is the fear of God that all people must have.

Because when that happens, Acts 19:20 hits, and the Word grows and prevails. People abandon their prior sinful practices, even at great cost, and stand publicly with Christ.

Then, of course, the riot comes. Why? Because so many people abandon idolatry that the idol-makers find themselves made idle. There is much here as well, as the crowd in Ephesus insists on the supporting the worship of the gods they make. Amazing how people do that—I had a pastor who often said that we either accept being made in God’s image or we attempt to make a god in our image.

On to us, though, as there is precious little left to be done for ancient Ephesus:

What is your trust in, when you face the evil things that afflict this world? More specifically, when those things afflict you?

I am not talking about finding a demon in every sneeze, nor should you hear me applaud the “never-go-to-the-doctor-just-pray” mentality. That we should pray and seek the aid of those God has gifted should be a “duh” thought for us.

Also, though, how do you handle the challenges that afflict you spiritually? Do you run to the old rituals? To the current “flavor of the month?”

Put your hope and trust in the Living God. Let the rest of the tricks slide away…

Today’s Nerd Note: The post is already long, so here’s a short one: Acts 19:35-36 give us an important learning text in our doctrine of Scripture. Even though I believe that every word of Scripture is infallible, that the Bible is truth without any mixture of error, the text can accurately record inaccurate (or outright lies) spoken by an individual. For example, Acts 19:35-36 should not be taken as Biblical proof that the Diana Statute legend is true. The textual recording here is accurate in this: that’s what the town clerk said. Not that the town clerk was right, just that this is what he said.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Overdue: Christmas Gifting Ideas

I have been an inconsistent blogger over the years that I have had this habit, but apparently the last three Christmas seasons I have done the same thing, and I probably shouldn’t stop now. After all, I’m a Baptist, and this is how we work: the first time we do something, it’s a novelty and very, very scary. The second time it’s a repeat and underwhelming. The third time? It’s a tradition and must therefore be done forever and ever, even past the Millennial Kingdom.

After this, it will be something I have to do, even if they shut down the Internet.

What is this habit? A blog post giving some suggestions on where to do some Christmas gift-giving. No, this does not have the links to my Amazon Wish Lists. Or to my Gander Mountain Wishlist, for that matter…

Ann and I have, over the years, chosen to give to certain ministries, missions, or projects in lieu of some of the “giving of obligation” that happens this time of year. You know the gifts: one little trinket for this person or that person, who is receiving a pile of token gifts every year. We first thought about this the year that Ann was in early childhood education and I was in ministry: we really appreciated the cute coffee cups and other items, but there was just a lot of “stuff.” So we asked this question:

What would we want?

Well, we want world peace. Barring that, we would like to see as much of the world as possible acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father and for them to do that now, joyfully, rather than in the end, mournfully. To that end, how could you give us that for Christmas? Not that I don’t want the plate of cookies, mind you, but instead of the fancy plate from Kohl’s, put the cookies on a paper plate and a little note showing where you sent the plate money.

Where to start?

I’m glad you asked. That’s what this list is for. Mind you, I receive absolutely nothing in return for this: unless you choose to mention to an organization that I sent you their way, and they choose to acknowledge it, this is just between you, them, and God Almighty. I will take this much responsibility: I have dealt with the individuals, organizations, or groups named personally. They have received money from me—I have trusted them that much. Do your own due diligence as you see fit.

1. Southern Baptist Missions: I am a Southern Baptist/Great Commission Baptist Pastor. It is not only a duty, though, but a joy to recommend to my fellow SB/GCBC folks to get the information from your church regarding the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

1a: There’s always a disaster. When those happen, you can give to a new start-up hoping to help with the situation, or you can give to a group with pre-funded infrastructure and administration. The former has no alternative but to use some of your crisis-giving to help with admin. That’s not bad, just reality. The latter? If they say 100% is going to Disaster Relief, it is. Here is a link to info on what Baptist Disaster Relief and how to give to it: ABSC Disaster Relief Page.

2. The next thing I would highlight is WorldCrafts that is connected with the Women’s Missionary Union. This gives you the opportunity to actually put something under the tree and also feel good that your spending helped people better their lives. Most of us already spend plenty of money helping corporate America buy bigger yachts, and WorldCrafts helps people do things like escape slavery.

2a. One major issue these days is human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Go to this section, set1free, to see how something as simple as your Christmas shopping can be a starting point to help someone. Often women and children escape trafficking situations only to find themselves starving on the streets, because there is just no work. Set1Free is a specific effort from WorldCrafts to step into the middle of that.

3. We have friends who are helping the Lavukal people of the Russell Islands get the Bible in their own language. Those friends are Aaron and Joanna Choate. They work with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and if you would like to give in support of their mission work, you can click here.  (One note: the page there will state that the Choates are in the US for Aaron to finish his MA in linguistics. They are here. But congratulations to Aaron, he’s done!!) I would trust this family with all things precious to me.

3a. You may also consider giving to the overall mission of Wycliffe Bible Translators. I would like the Bibleless Peoples Project myself.

4. Ann and I made the acquaintance of Eric and Gaye Ramsey this year. They are part of Tom Cox World Ministries. More than encouraging you to support them or even have them visit your church, though both would be fine, I would encourage you to look at the projects they support in terms of orphanages and other ministries. Check this page for more info.

5. Finally, we blessed in America to have an overabundance of nerd-pastors and brainiac ministers. There are other places where even a minor amount of training for those who serve churches is a luxury. The school I attend, B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, has a program to provide ministry and Bible training to pastors in Cuba. Yes, that little island that we think of having a missile crisis, old cars, and good cigars also has churches. However, there is not the widespread societal support of churches in Cuba as there is in the US. The school provides scholarships to help students study to better understand the whole of Scripture and the history of the church. You can click here for more info.


Those are my suggestions this year. Of course, there are myriads of social programs, ministry opportunities, and people in need around you. Open your eyes and answer some hard questions this year: Do I really need to get that? Do I really need to give this? Or can I give it away instead?

You might be surprised…

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sermon Wrap-up December 9

Here are the sermon wrap-up links for December 9:

Audio Link is here. (By the way, I just realized that the podcast service has not been feeding the whole sermon into iTunes. So, if you listen through iTunes and thought the conclusions were lacking….they were. Checking on that this week.)

Here, again, is the video:

Daniel 2:44-45: The hidden hope of faith

Overall Sales Results for the Entire Holiday Shopping Season 2011:

  • Between November 1, 2011 and December 26, 2011, Consumers spent $35.3 billion online, according to market research organization ComScore. This is 15% more than consumers spent online in the same time period in 2010.
  • There were nine days in 2011 in which online sales were more than $1 billion, according to ComScore.
  • Clothing chain discounts were an average of 7% higher than they were during the 2010 Christmas shopping season, according to an analyst at BMO Capital Markets.
  • According to an ICSC-Goldman Sachs survey, 18% of gift purchases were gift cards, which is 3.4% higher than 2010.
  • Between December 1st and December 24th, consumer retail spending rose 4.7% over the same time period in 2010, according to ShopperTrak research.
  • Consumer Confidence rose to 64.5 in December 2011, which is 10 points higher than November's consumer confidence level according to the Conference Board.
  • In November spending rose 4.1%, according to the research organization, ShopperTrak

Set the Stage:

1. Daniel: in exile, the loss of the "good country" and the blessed lands

2. Daniel: in service to the country of his residence, but not the home of his heart

3. Daniel: waiting

4. Nebuchadnezzar: Hears great news about his kingdom but likely misses what the real message is here:

5. Christmas is coming: the outbreak of the final kingdom of his vision: the Rock that fills the whole world

6. What do we look for? 

7. Do we have faith that Christmas has come, and the Rock has been established? 

8. Do we live as part of that kingdom? Even though we must dwell in a lesser one?

9. What do we do to spread the Rock Kingdom throughout the whole world?

10. Christmas was the revelation of the plan of God and we live in fulfillment of His declared plan.


1. How many kingdoms did Nebuchadnezzar see in his vision?

2. Was Daniel sent into exile in 587/6 BC?

3. Do people have faith in Christmas even if they are not Christians?

4. Has the Rock Kingdom fully come into this world?

5. Who is in charge of the Rock Kingdom?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Book: I AM…by Iain D. Campbell

Ever read a book that should have been longer? Except, then you wonder if, had it been longer, it would have been as good?

That’s how I feel about I AM…Exploring the “I am” saying of John’s Gospel by Iain D. Campbell. Weighing in at only 120 pages, this volume does not belabor any of the points within. Instead, Campbell comes right to the point on the seven usages of “I AM” by Jesus as reported in the Gospel of John.

In a short introduction, Campbell explains the purpose of the book. He expresses why the “I am” statements of Jesus stand out, citing the Old Testament usage of the phrase in God’s revelation at the Burning Bush. The introduction to I AM… then explains that the Gospel of John uses a specific word pattern in Greek to say those words.

This discussion lacks two things that would add value: first, it lacks the actual Greek terminology. While simplifying the explanation to “what could be said with one word is said with two” may provide clarity, to extend and show the actual Greek would not have made the point any less clear. Second, an acknowledgement that Jesus likely spoke in Aramaic rather than Greek would have been appropriate. It would only be necessary to state that, whether Jesus spoke in a different language or not, inspired Scripture records the words in Greek and so it is on Greek the book is based.

However, those are minor quibbles from a person living neck-deep in New Testament studies right now. Overall, the book reads like seven introduction lectures that are perfect to set up discussions in small groups. The discussion questions that follow each chapter are helpful at probing into the ideas expressed.

Admittedly, I AM… is not really bursting with new information. Many of Campbell’s points can be found in various commentaries and studies on the Gospel of John. However, having just these sayings extracted and put in an easy-to-read bundle is well worth it.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Cross Focused Media in exchange for the review.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sermon Wrap-Up December 2

Here is the audio link for the sermon


2 Samuel 7

The Promise of a King

Hope: Knowing that the unknown will be worth living for

I.  Uneasiness at Christmas Time

II. Our efforts to do for God

III. God's promise to do for us

IV. Faith to trust that promise


1. Who wanted to build a Temple? Who will? 

2. Why couldn't David build the Temple?

3. Should we build a Temple? Why not?

4. What is hope?

And one last thing: the experiment in current technology:

Book: Worship in an Age of Anxiety

  This week, I'm wrapping up reading J. Michael Jordan's Worship in an Age of Anxiety . This isn't an assigned review, but a boo...