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Showing posts from 2013

The ending of a year: 2013 closes

By the time you read this, it may be 2014. I haven’t a clue when you’ll get around to clearing out your RSS feeds or your blog subscriptions, so you may have rung in the new year, watched 2 days of football, and be back to work, school, or whatever normal means for you.So, as you’ll find in many corners of the Internet right now, I thought I’d look back at the year 2013 and say a few things about it. Here they are:The year started. There were 365 calendar days in it. The year ended. (Or is ending). Wait, you wanted deep and thought-provoking?Ok, here’s the deep part:You had a great year. You had an awful year. You, over there, felt like the whole year was a waste. You, in the back, thought you were fortunate just to survive the year.Here’s the deal: we each had 365 days. Some of them were spent in a coma—whether necessary or personally chosen is another story. Some of them were spent on survival. I’ve had years where 360 days were spent on survival. It happens.Some of those days wer…

Book: Rest Not in Peace

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Hugh de Singleton returns! After solving, though not truly resolving, the case of The Tainted Coin,our heroic surgeon and bailiff of Bampton is back to face the death of Sir Henry Burley. Mel Starr’s chronicles of Hugh de Singleton continue with Rest Not in Peace.Rest Not in Peace is the sixth book in the series. Mel Starr, teacher of history, brings us back to the fourteenth century. We dwell in a land of knights and peasants, lords and serfs, ladies and maids…and diseases, superstitions, corruption in religion and government, and, of course, murder. (On a side note, the afterword of Rest Not in Peace points out that some village scenes in the popular Downton Abbey show are filmed near the location of Brampton.)Now, I could go on sounding like ad copy for Rest Not in Peace, and indeed I wish to. While my first exposure to Mel Starr’s writing was a bit of a challenge and change of pace, I have since found myself loving the medieval world, though not longing to live there! In Rest Not …

Sermon Wrap-up for December 29

It feels like forever since we had a normal Sunday with two sermons to post. A few quick notes:1. In the New Year, we will be working through the NIV Chronological Study Bible. That plan is different than the one in the NLT Chronological Study Bible or several other chronological plans. If you would like to join us for those readings, create a free account at Faithlife and join this group: https://faithlife.com/almyra-baptist-2014-reading-group/about (The Almyra Baptist Reading Group). Or follow this plan: http://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/chronological/feed/bg-reading.xml?version=NIV2. With that plan, if you read along, the Sunday morning sermons will come from passages you have read, and Sunday night we’ll be doing questions about the reading and some preview of the coming week’s reading. Feel free to email questions or post them to the church FB page: https://www.facebook.com/almyrabaptist3. Speaking of Facebook, do me a favor and “Like” the church Facebook page here: https…

Advent Reflections: The Lord Jesus Christ

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. This week features double-posts to finish by Christmas.Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Four Day Six: The Lord Jesus Christ“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” Revelation 4:11 (NASB95)Christmas in 21st Century America is about many things. The retail world counts on Christmas to balance the books. The movie world waits to release award-worthy films around Christmas. The schools count on those two weeks to restore the sanity of the teachers. Many families count on Christmas to be the time they get together. Christmas 1914 was the scene of something even greater. In the opening year o…

Advent Reflections: Magi and Shepherds

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. This week features double-posts to finish by Christmas.Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Four Day Five: Magi and Shepherds“So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.” Luke 2:16 (NASB95)“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Matthew 2:10 (NASB95)Two groups of men. Two similar reactions. Two very different backgrounds. One group spends their nights with their eyes on the ground, watching sheep and guarding against thieves and predators. The other group spends their nights with their eyes on the skies, watching stars and guarding ancient wisdom against the ravages of time. One group is surrounded by smelly sheep and the gen…

Advent Reflections: Angels

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. This week features double-posts to finish by Christmas.Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Four Day Four: Angels“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.” Luke 2:9 (NASB95)Yes, week four is for people. No, angels are not people. Not now, not ever, no matter what the movies show[1] us. The Christmas story needs the angels, though. So, let us take a look at angels and see what we can about them. First, to address the angels are not people line. This is true as far as can be told from Scripture. It appears in Scripture that angels are created as angels and people are created as people. Eternity does not see that line blur…

Advent Reflections: Joseph

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. This week features double-posts to finish by Christmas.Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Four Day Three: Joseph“Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,” Luke 2:4 (NASB)Joseph. The other half of “Mary and Joseph,” one of the most famous couples in world history. When you read the whole story, you discover something I consider extraordinary: he has no lines in the Bible. There are places where he obviously had to say something: after all, you have to say “I do” or the wedding does not count. Yet besides these points where it is implied that Joseph has to have said something, we do no…

Advent Reflections: Mary

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. This week features double-posts to finish by Christmas.Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Four Day Two: Mary“Behold, the bond-slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 (NASB95)The focus on people in the story of Christmas has to include Mary. Though we cannot cross the line and attempt to place her equal with the Lord Jesus Christ, she is still critical to message of the Gospel. Her willingness to carry and deliver a child echoes as an example of sacrifice to this day. She alone could testify to the truth of His being born of a virgin, fulfilling Isaiah 7:14. She alone would know for certain how special her Son was, knowing who His Father was. Her words are recorded in Luke a…

Advent Reflections: The People

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. This week features double-posts to finish by Christmas.Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Four Day One: The People“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.” Luke 2:1It is impossible to think of the Christmas story without dealing with people. Even the most introverted person has to acknowledge that Christmas happened among people. Luke gives us this verse, in which Caesar wanted to count all the inhabited earth. That would be a lot of people! While history helps us understand that Caesar Augustus meant to count the whole Roman Empire, I would not doubt he ordered it as a census of the whole world. After all, for an Emperor of Rome, there were…

Advent Reflections: The Sacrifice without Replacement

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Three Day Six: The Sacrifice without Replacement“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.” Hebrews 10:19–20 (NLT) The last point about Jesus as our sacrifice is that He is the sacrifice without replacement. There is no substitute for Him to be found in heaven, on earth, or under the earth. Without holding to this truth, Christmas becomes less than just another day. It ends up as a colossal drain on your energy and a big mess at the mall for no good reason. This idea bears both repeating and expanding: Jesus…

Advent Reflections: The Sacrifice without Coercion

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Three Day Five: The Sacrifice without Coercion“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:4-5 (NLT)The lead-in to Christmas, the time when we celebrate Advent, is many things in our culture. Not all of these things are positive. This time of year, the ‘holiday season’ seems to also be that time of year when the guilt-machine in society is turned up an extra notch or two in intensity. During Christmas, we gather with people that we avoid throughout the year, we sandwich in trips to distant relatives that in all honesty, we can barely afford. We …

Advent Reflections: The Sacrifice without Spot and Blemish

Week Three Day Four: The Sacrifice without Spot and Blemish“I will not take what is yours for the Lord[1] or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (King David) 1 Chronicles 21:24It is easy for us to picture Christmas in light of the Hallelujah Chorus and sing “Wonderful! Counselor! The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!” This is certainly the celebration of the overall character of Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth in Bethlehem anchors our celebrations. Yet Christians recognize not one Advent but two. The second is the one yet to come: when He returns and initiates the visible Kingdom of God in all things. The first Advent leads us to Bethlehem and the manger. In the gap between the two Advents, something else had to happen. We return to the Old Testament for the picture of the system of sacrifices and offerings. Soon after Adam and Eve eat the fruit they should have left alone, we see Cain and Abel offering sacrifices. They take some of their labor an…

Advent Reflections: A Sense of Destiny

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Three Day Three: A Sense of Destiny“For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.” John 12:35 (NASB95)The sensation that is myrrh, though, does not stop in everyday use. Myrrh was a portion of the anointing oil of the Tabernacle. In fact, it was the largest portion of this oil. Exodus 30 records this oil and its purposes. Whatever was touched by this oil was considered holy. It was to be used on the priests and the implements of sacrifice. It was used on the altar and on the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was the symbol of the ce…

Advent Reflections: A Sense of Intimacy

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Three Day Two: A Sense of Intimacy“All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.” Psalm 45:8 (NASB95)For now, lay aside the thought of myrrh as a burial spice. Instead, let us consider myrrh and its place among the fragrances of intimacy, of relationship, of celebration. Myrrh carries a picture in the Old Testament that is quite different than what we see in the few references to it in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, myrrh is a part of the marriage celebration. The Scripture above, from Psalm 45, is a good reference point for that use. The whole of Psalm 45 is a celebration of marriage.…

Advent Reflections: Senses and Sacrifice

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Three Day One: Senses and Sacrifice“Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds.” Genesis 43:11 (ESV)Coming to the last gift, we find myrrh. Myrrh, like frankincense, was an all-purpose spice. It is another agricultural product. Well, more like a silvicultural product since it comes from trees, but you get the point. It is not something valuable because it is rare. It is instead valuable because people liked it. How do I know people liked it? If you look through the Bible alone for…

Advent Reflections: Priest Above Me

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Two Day Six: Priest Above Me“For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all—this was attested at the right time.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NRSV)Now we come to the crux of the matter. Jesus is certainly the Priest above all religion, practices, problems, and divisions. Yet what about you? Do you recognize that Jesus is alive to be your High Priest? It is not enough to say that He is greater than all else. Doing so would be true, but it remains a distant truth. I readily recognize that I could not go three rounds with George Foreman. What of it? The question is irrelevant: no one expects me to…

Advent Reflections: Priest Above All Problems

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Two Day Five: Priest Above All Problems“Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.” Exodus 18:15-16If a train leaves New York at 0545 traveling 60mph on the same track to Philadelphia as a train leaving Philadelphia leaves for New York at 0600 headed to New York traveling 45mph leaves on, how much time does the dispatcher have to warn both trains to stop? Sound like a major issue? Maybe not if you live in Atlanta, but if you are on one of those trains, it is a huge deal. Yet what you see above is a typi…

Advent Reflections: Priest Above All Practices

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Two Day Four: Priest Above All Practices“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24 (NASB95)If you live in the South, you probably realize that many Southerners do love football. Especially college football. The traditions and excitement that surround Saturdays between September and December overtake even the most casual of fans, and cause some of the sanest of people to do some rather crazy things. The traditions of college football are as diverse as the crowds that do them. In Oxford, Mississippi, the well-dressed members of the football team walk through the tailgating crowd to get to the stadium. In Arkansas, grown people stand…

Book: The New Calvinism Considered

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Well, it’s book time around these here parts. I’m staring at a shelf full of books that I’d like to get through, so I’m going to work back towards the book-a-day posting. Today, we’ve got The New Calvinism Considered by Jeremy Walker. Provided by EP Books.I get nervous when we have “new” theologies based on theological ideas that have been around for centuries. It’s like we have a modern idea, but are afraid to claim that idea or trust it to stand on its own, so we package it and label it with an historic-sounding name, whether that’s “Calvinism” or “Traditionalism” or anything else that comes to mind. That’s not so much a critique of today’s book as it is a generic rant.Moving away from that consideration, let us consider The New Calvinism Considered by Jeremy Walker. It’s published by EP Books, weighs in at 124 pages, is burdened by endnotes instead of footnotes, and can be read twice in a week. It looks like this: Further, it’s available from Amazon on Kindle as well as other sourc…

Advent Reflections: Priest Above All Division

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Two Day Three: Priest Above All Division“For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.” Ephesians 4:4-6There are, unfortunately, divisions among those who claim the name of Christ. We tend to argue about things great and small. Where else can you find arguments so bitter that a person will not speak to someone five feet away? Some of the arguments are necessary. It often happens that we take our eyes off the Cross and get greatly distracted. When that happens, wrong goals appear and wrong ideas are ta…

On the Judgment of Religions

Religion is the coordination of beliefs about the nature of existence and practices that are line with those beliefs. That one would judge a religion, for good or for ill, based on one-seventh of those practices is second in foolishness only to those who would judge a man’s devotion to religion, for good or for ill, based on how he performs in one-seventh of his life.It is akin to ending a hockey match halfway through the first period, a football game on the second possession, or a baseball game before the lineup has batted through. One would not deem The Lord of the Rings to have been read adequately at the Council of Elrond.Yet we will determine that a religion is good or bad because of weekly worship. We will determine that a person properly represents a religion because they perform well for an hour, or that they fail for not performing in that hour.This does not make us wise in the evaluation and consideration of belief. Rather, it makes us fools, as the child who answers a quest…

Advent Reflections: Priest Above All Religion

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Two Day Two: Priest Above All Religion“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NIV)The first place our minds go when we hear that Jesus is a “priest” is down the road to religion. Left to that path, we are headed to an unmitigated disaster if we do not put some hedges and explanations on that. The truth carries a much tighter focus than many of us like. Most religions build on a structure of priesthood. The structure is this: there is something beyond what normal people understand, but there are a few that grasp the full truth. Those few then serve as intermediaries between ordinary folks and that s…

Advent Reflections: The Great Priest

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from Amazon.com here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway.Week Two Day One: The Great Priest“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;” Hebrews 3:1The next gift mentioned in Matthew is called frankincense. This is where a good many of us get lost, since we do not often have much sense regarding scents. It is obtained from balsam trees, specifically ones that are indigenous to regions of Arabia and the Horn of Africa. In ancient times, it held a great value because of the localization of the economy. Today, though, frankincense does not seem to be that big of a deal. At this moment, I can order a pound of frankincense from Amazon.com for under twenty dollars…