Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sermon Recap: June 30

Sunday Evening, we joined the Almyra Methodists for a picnic, so there is no sermon to post.

Morning Audio is here

Morning Video is here:

Outline:

Text: James 4:7

Date: June 30, 2013

Location: Almyra FBC

Central Idea: RESISTANCE IS NOT FUTILE!! (repeat!)

Theological Idea: How do we resist the devil? By submitting to God

1. Submission leads to resistance

2. Draw near--active submission

3. Cleanse--take it seriously

4. Be weak--he brings strength

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book: Prepared by Grace, For Grace

Some books are for everyone. Some books are not for everyone.

Image 1Prepared by Grace, For Grace, by Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, is a book I would argue is *not* for everyone. That being said, I am not against this book, and I have been challenged through reading it.

What is Prepared by Grace, for Grace? It is an examination of the classical Puritan doctrine of “preparatory grace.” This doctrine is examined as presented in the seventeenth century Puritan writers, and discussed among modern Reformed theology.

It is well done. Prepared by Grace, for Grace runs through a clear analysis of primary source materials as well as the secondary sources. Further, there are answers to many of the critical objections to the doctrinal idea. Finally, in an appendix, the reader is treated to an English translation of one of the primary sources considered. In all, for a theological concept that is not widely discussed (at least in my circles), this was a helpful introduction.

However, I would caution the casual reader away from Prepared by Grace, for Grace. This is no light reading, and those without a working knowledge of Reformation-era Christian History will find themselves a little lost in the flood of detail. Each section provides some of the biography of the theologian involved, but the little pictures do not fully compute without prior understanding of the big picture.

Further, the language is definitely on a more academic level in Prepared by Grace, for Grace. That hits what I think is the target market: serious students of theology, whether formal or informal, but still those with more than a passing fancy for the material.

I have no hesitation about recommending Prepared by Grace, for Grace to those who want to study theology or the Puritans. I would simply caution that this is not a quick read.

Book provided through Cross-Focused Reviews, a third-party source seeking to provide honest reviews for publishers.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Link Wednesday

Note: I renamed the blog “Learning, Teaching, Laughing,” but I haven’t added much in the way of Laughing. I’m working on it.

This past week, here are some links that I found either fun or informative. Hopefully you’ll at least find one of them intriguing!

1. Swiss Watch in Chinese Tomb? At first glance, it appears that a one-hundred year-old watch was found in tomb that is four-hundred years-old. That’s not quite right…

2. Lego Vault with all the Lego sets ever made! Now that I know this exists, I am very tempted to try my hand at robbing said vault. And the space set picture? I had that one!

3. Buried treasure? Quick, box it up at the hands of “top men!”

4. More Lego? Yes. I’m a Lego maniac. I think that was actually one of their campaigns…Here are pictures showing the development of the Lego Person (Minifig) across the years.

5. Historical mysteries are one of my “fun” pursuits. What happened to Amelia Earhart? Who built the Newport Tower? Where’s Waldo? This one is related to Amelia Earhart—a case that may finally get some closure.

6. Bowties are cool, but not because the Doctor says so. Because this doctor wears one:

7. Not funny, but indicative of a problem that ought to be solved. Heroic Marine (headline calls him a soldier, but he’s a Marine) whose Medal of Honor was stolen still hopes it turns up. Two problems exist related to this story: soldiers not having the honors they are due and people not due the honor having it. Folks, if no one in your life was awarded that medal, you shouldn’t have it. Even if it is cool. Find a way to get it to whom it belongs.

8. When will it achieve sentience and come back, looking for its creator? Voyager 1 moving out of the solar system.

9. This is NOT what we wanted around here! New mosquito breed in Stuttgart area. (watch the annoying pop-ups from the newspaper’s website. I almost hate to link to them because of the pop-up.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Gifts of Transformers: Romans 12

There are certain realities at work in the world in which we live. One of those is the lingering impact of sin on humanity. We are not, any one of us, near the kind of person that we ought to be. When you assemble us together, we are much more like the Avengers in the first part of the movie, when they are more interested in fighting each other than they are in dealing with the enemy.

If you then take that tendency and put us in large groups, we form societies, and those rarely turn out perfectly either. The end result being that we cannot simply assume that every thing that is publicly acceptable is also acceptable for Christians to do. How do we shake out the difference?

Romans 12 gives us some insight into how we as Christians ought to live amid societies that are not driven by Christian teaching. (Which, by the way, is every society ever…some closer than others, but none perfect.)

First, we see this: our minds are not automatically what they ought to be. Otherwise, Paul would not have admonished the Romans to have their minds transformed. And if Roman society could have accomplished this for them, the call would not be to remain unconformed to the patterns of the world. Enlightenment cannot make us into the image of Christ.

So, what can?

That is what we see second in this passage. A list of some of the gifts of transformers for our mind, given by the grace of God through His spirit.

What are these?

First, there is the diversity of the body. We learn by being part of a community made up of people that are different from us. This is true whether the differences are in giftings, backgrounds, ethnicity, age, or gender. A church community that becomes one-dimensional on any of these weakens itself.

Second, there are the functions of members. People are gifted to help the church, and they are gifted in different ways. We are strengthened by learning from each other in those areas and manners. We are transformed to be more generous by knowing the ones who are gifted in giving. We are transformed to know the Word by the teachers, and become capable ourselves. We are transformed from inactivity by those who lead us to act!

Third, there are the fundamental acts and attitudes that we ought to have. Love without hypocrisy, devotion to one another, commitment to prayer. Returning good for evil, even when evil has been meted out to you in abundance. These are not the behaviors of worldly society. These are often not even the behaviors of nearly-Christian society.

And we wonder why our influence wanes. We strive to overcome evil with politics, to repay insults with insults. We want the power back to repay the abuse of power that we have seen. Within our own churches, we fail to give preference to one another or take diligent action to grow in faith.

What, then, do we expect?

Fellow believers, the reason we are losing ground in our churches is that we do not work through the life-transforming implications of the Gospel. Jesus died, rose again, and ascended that we could be alive in the Spirit—and then we take our cues from death about how to live.

While we will see society around us move in ever-varying directions, our own internal behavior is what we can and should control. Why would the spiritually dead seek life when our life looks just like their death? The current state of much of what we call the Western World is the result of the living looking dead so long that the dead think they’re alive.

This is no easy task, but we are not alone in it. Take a look back at Romans 12:1-3. We are given the grace and faith necessary.

Let’s put it to work.

Today’s Nerd Note: Notice the mood shift from Romans 1-11 to Romans 12 (and following). The Epistle hinges on the “therefore” in 12:1 and pivots from expressing general ideas to practical applications. That is not to say there is no practicality in Paul’s initial section and no ideas in the latter portion, but that is the general pattern.

It is important that we also seek a similar balance in our teaching methods. People need to understand the why as much as they need the what.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up for June 23

Preacher’s note: Well, last night I intended to be brief and more like a devotional, so I didn’t bother recording. I think I preached probably the best sermon I’ve preached in months. (Steady, in the back, I’m only comparing to me, not to great preachers.)

Morning Audio is here

Morning Video:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Books in Brief: June 21

I haven’t done this lately, and all the cool bloggers do it frequently, so I’m going to hit that mid-point between being a wannabe cool blogger and not really caring if I’m a cool blogger. That is, since I need a post for today and am a little short on ideas, I’m going to give you some short book suggestions.

I have read or am reading all of these, and will stop short of all-out endorsing them, but so far I like what I see.

#1: Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield.

This is an historical novel addressing the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. Obviously, being an adult-oriented work, this one contains much in the way of language and gruesome depictions of ancient warfare. So, it’s not a read-aloud for kindergarten. Still, the vividness of the descriptions and manner in which Pressfield both humanizes the Spartans and addresses their flaws engaged me. First book in a while that I have started on and not wanted to quit. Pressfield does not leave us just with “and everybody died at Thermopylae,” but does finish up the Persian Invasion.

#2: Exploring the Origins of the Bible by Craig A. Evans and Emanuel Tov

This is an academic look at the background of the composition of the Bible. Jewish sources are cited in much of the discussion of what we call the Old Testament, and given the Jewish origin of the Old Testament, that’s quite logical. Some of the information is very nerd-oriented, but it’s still a good read. Also of note is a section addressing some of the knowledge reflected in early Jewish writings, including some mention that the moon reflects the sun’s light and that blood circulates within the body—both ideas that are often noted as “discovered” much later.

Exploring the Origins of the Bible is a collection of essays/papers from eight authors, with Evans and Tov contributing one chapter each and editing the rest. If you are interested in studying the origins of Christian Scripture, this is a helpful tool.

A quick note on this: it is nigh unto impossible to find an “unbiased” book on the subject of Scriptural formation in the Christian religion. You will either find books written from the “we must debunk, anyone who accepts is rejecting all logic and falling for religion-power” viewpoint or are from the “we take it by faith but use these cherry-picked facts to support the faith” viewpoint. Evans/Tov have come decently close to finding facts and basing the work on the facts.

#3: Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs

This is a marriage book, primarily, and addresses the idea that men need to see respect in their relationships while women need to see love. That is, of course, a gross over-simplification. So far, I’m only part of the way into it. I think it’s a good look at “make sure you are paying attention to what your spouse needs” type of book. It’s very easy to try and be in a relationship what we want, without realizing that this might keep us from being what our partner wants.

As with all books of this nature, it can be really easy to get out of balance from Scripture and reality. Take it, read it, digest it, and use the valuable parts.

 

Those three should give you something to read for a week or two. Smile

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Time to Quit: Numbers 8

I have a retirement fund. At my current rate of saving, I can expect to draw approximately 1/3 of my current income when I turn 67. For those of you who are good with math, you know what that means: I will not likely ever retire. Which is fine in my opinion: while there are times that the work I do can be strenuous, if I keep doing it another thirty years I’ll likely be able to ask for help for those parts.

Being a Levite was another matter. Levites are given their term of service in Numbers 8:23-26. This passage gives a hard number:  a Levite starts service at the worship center at 25, and rotates out at 50. End of story.

What facts need to go with this reality?

1. Consider the “age of responsibility” in the culture of the time. The reality is that before a Levite undertook duties at the sanctuary, he had a good decade of being responsible for various adult activities, like work. Or relationships—depending on what source you pick, he likely had been married for some time, or was approaching marriageable age. I happen to think that era married earlier rather than later.

Now, amidst the personal responsibility of the era, keep the community aspect in mind. We’re not talking about a 15-year-old Levite out managing 1,000 acre farm with no help. If I read the Old Testament books, both canonical and explanatory, right, then he’s got his plot, right beside another Levite’s plot. So there is backup for his youth and inexperience, but he’s still responsible for himself.

2. Lifespan in peacetime easily exceeded 50 years for the Israelites. This is not a matter of “well, if he gets to 50, he can kick back.” If they were living at peace, it would not have been unheard of to reach that age. There would have been some medical issues with aging: hearing and vision challenges come to mind, but there was not a certainty of death at an early age.

3. There was a physicality to the labor at the sanctuary. Heavy stuff to move, animals to wrangle, water to haul. There was more at hand than just teaching and singing.

4. The Levites were primarily responsible for their own provisions by the land given them among the Israelites, though they did receive a share in the offerings. That share was divided among all of the Levites. There was no retirement savings—life was provisioned by the ongoing gifts of the people.

Now that we have that in view, where do we go next?

First, we need to address this principle: while there was retirement from active service at the sanctuary, being a Levite was not just a job. It was who you were. As believers in Jesus, being active disciples that share the Word of God is not a job, either. It is who we are. There is no retirement from that aspect of existence.

Second, we need to consider this principle: there does come a point when the body cannot keep up with the needs of some work. However, that does not mean the end of our usefulness. Note that the Levites were told that they could assist, but not carry the heavy load. There is no quit. There is a shift in responsibility.

Third, we need to understand this principle: because a shift in responsibility was coming, it was necessary to prepare the next generation of workers. A Levite knew he would be out of the role he filled within a set period of time. I have no evidence for this, but I think it a safe assumption that there was a constant rotation of duties to ensure people could step up to the task. Anything that needs doing now will need doing in the years to come. Train multiple people to fill those needs.

Finally, we need to grab this principle: eventually, we will need to be cared for by others. The best preparation for that is to provide care for others now. Why? It helps us understand. It also frees those who have gone before to impart wisdom rather than spend all their time hauling water. Freely give to those who have preceded you, so that they may freely impart wisdom to you.

These are some principles from the retirement plan of Numbers 9. Note that there is nothing here about how to survive or save for retirement—only about being allowed to continue helping afterwards!

So, what is your retirement plan?

Today’s Nerd Note: The remainder of the chapter speaks to the ceremonial worship of YHWH and the institution of the sanctuary worship system. Ritual purity was established, and the people obeyed fully.

What should strike us the most is that this was not done in secret, but in full view and with full participation of the people. Any system that installs worship leaders without the people’s involvement is flawed.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Failing for You: Romans 11

I wish I could say I understood every last nuance of Romans 11 (link). I don’t. Paul is at his most Baptist self here, as he connects rhetorical questions with Old Testament quotes and covers history from Abraham to his present day, including his own heritage. He has a point, but he also has a half-dozen sub-points.

I think we need to note something about those sub-points. I believe the Bible to be completely correct, truth without any mixture of error, God’s Word. However, I do not accept that we can cut out a phrase and claim that, absent its context and authorial intent, it means something odd or obscure. We need to be careful: Paul is not attempting to clear up every question the Romans hold on any theological issue that comes to mind.

He is focused on a single big question here: “God has not rejected His people, has He?” (Romans 11:1)

That is the point under consideration here. Now, we may accurately draw from this passage other ideas, but we need to not put words in Paul’s mouth here. Not simply because it’s unfair to Paul, but because the Holy Spirit did not inspire them, so we ought not add them in.

Now, back to the passage. Paul is discussing why it is that Israel has even been permitted to stumble. He has, over the past few chapters, expressed the depth of his concern for his people, Israel, and their rejection of Jesus.

We get into Romans 11 and we find Paul explaining why Israel was allowed to reject Jesus. Quite frankly, they were allowed to stumble in rejecting Christ because of us Gentiles.

They were, quite literally, failing for us.

If you read through Acts, you will see that the primary times the Gospel message went beyond the original audience of Jews and synagogues was when that audience rejected the message. Even the early examples of Gentile converts to Christianity were connected to Judaism: proselytes, God-fearers, and Samaritans.

As Paul is driven from the synagogues, though, he takes a more direct approach to moving the Gospel beyond those boundaries. The first recorded conversion to Christianity in Europe is of Lydia—a Greek woman who was praying by the river. I cannot, in the space of a blog, tell you all the ways in which that twists traditional religion.

The point Paul is driving at is this: be careful knocking down those who were instruments in God’s work in your life, even when they appear to have rejected Him. Why?

First, because oftentimes there is a history of godliness that are current generation may be ignoring. It would have been easy for the Gentiles to act superior, but the reality was that God had worked through the Jews for millennia. Just because there is an older generation not like you does not make them wrong…or fools.

Do you ever criticize former generations without truly considering what has changed since then?

Second, because there was a wisdom in their rejection. God used the rejection by the Jews to bring salvation to a lost and dying world. How could one criticize the very action that brought life? It would be akin to coming out of heart surgery and complaining about medical dissections of cadavers: you live because of what you mock.

Do you recognize the gains in your life that have come from other people’s losses?

Third, because grace is enough. Paul highlights that even though there was some rejection of Christ, there were also those from among Israel that accepted Him. Grace is enough, for once and for always.

Do you rely on God’s grace so much that you know it must be what holds the world together?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Can we cut Ms. Utah USA a little slack?

The news has been aghast at the bobble a beauty pageant contest made this past weekend while trying to answer a question. Now, I have not attended a beauty pageant in years, and am highly unlikely to ever attend one again, so I do not know how the Miss USA pageant works. I don’t know if the contestants know what the questions will be ahead of time, but I’ve had to answer questions in front of people before.

It’s not easy. Even knowing the questions ahead of time does not make it much easier.

Now, typically I would use this opportunity to point out my personal dislike for beauty pageants, but rather than beat that drum here, I will simply share how I have spent the day. I was asked to answer a few questions. Theology/church history questions.

Now, especially when you get into that church history part, you are in my wheelhouse (a nice album from Brad Paisley, by the way). I may not be an expert in that area of knowledge, but it’s not for lack of trying.

However, knowing my answer is headed into a format that will see it circulated to more than a few hundred people, which is my typical blog audience, I have been semi-paralyzed at the fingertips over this. Let’s think about that:

I make my living, ultimately, by putting words together. Last week I shared with you my personal mission statement: I glorify God by passionately communicating truth to those around me. This is an arena in which I have piles of formal education and years of practical experience.

And the pressure locked me up, and more than just a little.

I am far from perfect, but I can assure you that I am at least as equipped, generally, to type out a news commentary as that young lady was to answer a question on the spot. So I can understand everything not coming out perfectly—and not even knowing why it happened.

So if you have to mock a young lady who tried for failing, I think you are showing more about yourself than you can ever say about her.

So let’s cut her some slack. I can assure you, there are plenty of things in this world to criticize that actually matter to your life instead of whether or not a 21-year-old can solve the problems of the world.

After all, neither of the elective branches of government have a positive approval rating in this country because they cannot solve those problems either. So, rather than mock Ms. Utah USA, how about you bust out a pen and paper or a keyboard and printer and send some mail of substance to your Representatives, Senators, and President.

Blast them. They’re paid to solve this stuff and together can only seem to make it worse.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sermon Recap: June 16

Well, we have another Sunday with no normal Sunday night service. So, there is only one video and audio to post.

Morning Audio Link is here

Video:

 

Central Idea: Want what your Father wants

Theological Idea: Abandonment of Idolatry

Word for the Sermon: DAD

Introduction:

It's Father's Day, and so we are going to couple our look at Scripture with a look at some of the wisdom that dear old Dad frequently attempted to impart. Of course, you've all heard it said that the older one gets, frequently the smarter their parents become--and I do not hold myself an exception to that view.

There are certain things I know about my father, certain things that I am well aware of...

Things Dad Used to Say:

1. You're old enough that your wants won't hurt you. (vv 1-3)

A. We often hurt ourselves or others in pursuit of our wants

B. We ought to be mature enough to let it go

C. What is our motivation? The cause of Christ or the causes of the world?

2. If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? (v. 4)

A. We choose friends who would jump off a bridge

B. We would lead our own friends off a bridge

C. But for the grace and correction of our heavenly Father.

3. You don't get paid to think. (v. 5)

A. We justify ourselves

B. We think instead of accepting God's Word

Application Action:

D: DISCOVERwhat your Heavenly Father wants: your life, your obedience, your surrender---read the Word to see what He said

A: ABANDON those things which are contrary to His ways: know His character

D: DEVELOP into the kind of person your Heavenly Father created you to be: shed the sins, the temptations, and follow after Him.

Definite Action:

1. Remind your parent-figures how much you appreciate them.

2. Write down, clearly, what you want to focus your remaining life on. Make it clear

3. Accept the grace of God.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book: Interpreting the Pauline Epistles

Nerd Alert: This is a deep water book. You are going to need a basic knowledge of Koine Greek to really dig into the meat of this book.

Today’s book is part of Kregel’s Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis series. It is Interpreting the Pauline Letters and is by John D. Harvey. Harvey, at the time of writing, is Professor of New Testament at Columbia International University.

Harvey’s Interpreting the Pauline Letters is set as “an exegetical handbook,” although it could be seen as a supplemental textbook instead. Harvey approaches the academic issues that envelop all of the traditional Pauline Epistles of the New Testament. While some of the authorship debates are visited, Harvey precedes to treat all of the epistles as Pauline rather than cut and paste from the text.

It is important to note that Interpreting the Pauline Letters does not attempt a thorough treatment of Paul’s biography. Rather, Harvey leans on the traditional understanding of Paul and his life. The focus here is on interpreting the Biblical text of the Pauline Corpus.

This requires that one put Interpreting the Pauline Letters on the desk with a good Greek lexicon and perhaps a theological dictionary—or have your Bible software open to help out. However, that is not all bad. This is not meant to be the only resource as you dig into Paul.

A few issues present themselves in Interpreting the Pauline Letters. The first is that a knowledge of Greek is necessary, and the more certain your knowledge the better off you are. One can find half-measures, such as interlinears, and still use this book, but you are far better off to have run through your Greek learning first.

An additional issue is in the Greek, as Harvey presents some methods of diagramming Greek structure in Interpreting the Pauline Letters. I have a feeling it matches his Greek is Good Grief, but it doesn’t match, exactly, other Greek textbook methods so there is a modicum of confusion there for some folks. Like me.

However, having just finished a similar volume on Paul for a Greek class, I found Harvey’s Interpreting the Pauline Letters quite informative. He does not address the newer issues in Pauline studies but provides useful tools for the serious reader to dig into the text itself.

I have no qualms about recommending Interpreting the Pauline Letters to you as a resource for New Testament Studies. (except this: at the time of the review, Amazon.com is out of it. I don’t know if it can be found elsewhere!!)

Please note: Kregel Academic offers me free books. I tend to accept ones that look good, and so often find that I chose well. They do not require a positive review in exchange for the book, only a review. This is that review.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wait, read how much? Numbers 7

Have you ever read all of Numbers 7? Honestly? Read through every one of the 89 verses? This is one of the longest non-poetry chapters in the Bible. And it’s repetitive.

Very.

Repetitive.

We are presented here with the records of 12 tribal leaders on successive days. Each of the offerings is identical, at least as far as I can tell, comprising the following materials:

   one silver dish whose weight was one hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old (several repetitions throughout Numbers 7, NASU)

Now, I will be honest. My view of the inspiration and practicality of Scripture keeps me from suggesting that there is a deeper symbolic or Christological meaning behind each of these items. Certainly, each offering reflects the one true sacrifice for sin, the substitution of Christ at the Cross for me. However, to try and fine anything else here is probably pushing too far.

Believing that the Exodus account is accurate and the people of Israel plundered the Egyptians on the way out of town, the material wealth is also no problem. Some people question the ability of the Israelites to offer this much as a gift, but there is no reason for that to be a problem given the prior aspects of the narrative.

The real challenge in this passage is finding anyway in which this one chapter applies to us. I think the application is simple, and that it is easy to lose in the repetition.

Here it is:

It takes sacrificial giving to be part of the people of God.

Whatever wealth had come from Egypt, at this point some of it is given from the people to the Tabernacle. At that point it is gone—usable only for holy purposes. I do think that it is wise to remember that, at this point in history, there were no persons more materially needy than any other. Instead, the ability to to eat was tied wholly to God’s provision in the wilderness, so the offerings were a form of worship and appreciation for the grace of God to keep the people alive.

Therefore, I do not think we can say that giving for the needs of others should always come second to a “giving for worship” idea. Instead, I think the two are linked. At this point in history, God uses the giving of his people to accomplish the task of feeding those who cannot feed themselves. He also uses the giving of his people to spread the Word and accomplish any of the other tasks of  his kingdom in this age. It is a false dichotomy to suggest that one should give to the poor but not to the church—or the other way around.

Regardless, the point here is that the people gave, and their leaders represented them in the giving. We must be willing to sacrificially give to accomplish God’s commands in our lives.

The secondary point is this one:

Public leaders must give public accountability.

The people had entrusted this materiel to their tribal leaders. We do not know who gave the ram, who gave this shekel or that—for the individual giving was part of their worship and individual to them and God. However, the leader who presented it publicly declared how much was there. Had Gamaliel (7:54) tried to skim a ram, it would have been obvious. Those who take the leadership must give an account of themselves for their behavior.

Finally, there is this point:

Mercy is the final note in the song of worship.

When Moses goes into the tent of meeting in Numbers 7:89, he does not hear God speak from the deserved seat or from the offering-bought seat. He hears God speak from the mercy seat. Mercy is the final answer. It is the first note in the song, and the last fermata on the final chord. At no point do we deserve anything better than judgment.

We just get mercy anyway. And so we give, but more than silver and rams. We give all we are.

Today’s Nerd Note: I skipped the opening segment about the gift of carts.

Notice how the sons of Kohath do not get carts in Number 7:9? About the time you think, “Hey, look at me, I get the Ark!” reality sets in: you also have to walk everywhere you go.

Sometimes, the most amazing of responsibilities brings with it the greater work. If all you had was the tent, you got a cart. But having the grandeur that was the Ark meant that you walked. Sore feet were the price of the privilege.

Which do you want?

Easy moves? Or the Ark?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Get Your Feet Moving: Romans 10

If you want to know where I come to Scripture and feel the most inadequate, I don’t know that I will tell you my biggest struggle. Usually that fluxes between loving the Lord my God with all my heart, loving my wife as Christ loved the church, and not exasperating my children to wrath.

But consistently in the second spot of Scripture passages that motivate, convict, inspire, and flat-out smack me in the face is Romans 10. Specifically, Romans 10:14-15. Allow me the liberty, if you will, to express why.

To get there, we need to clear the verses around the ground in question. The section in question really starts with Romans 10:8 and runs through 10:17, so we will start there.

Romans 10:8-11 addresses the issue of how a person receives salvation in Christ Jesus. It is not a matter of making a pilgrimage or giving an offering; it is not a matter of personal self-denial or wanton indulgence. It is the combination of a true belief in the heart and the public confession of Christ. This is not merely reading off a statement or acknowledging an historical possibility, but a declaration based in the decision-making centers of life, coupled with the emotional, volitional, and spiritual parts of our nature. It is a willingness to agree that your eternity and your present are found only in the most impossible thing imaginable:

That God became flesh, dwelt among us, died for us, and then rose from the dead.

Now, I will not sandbag and say that self-denial and offering, worship and obedience do not follow this, but they cannot precede salvation and have any value before Almighty God. Salvation is by grace through faith alone, and the presence of that faith is revealed by confession!

This is the opening point on the passage, and it is the starting point for all who are believers. We should always remember where we start, but then we need to move on and move forward.

Moving forward, I am going to skip over the next two verses and deal with them later. Instead, let us jump ahead to Romans 10:13-15. Here is where this passage hits me the hardest. Why?

  • “For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” That is not a possibility, that is a reality. While I would agree we have plenty to discuss regarding how people are enabled to call, and who will call, and whether or not God pre-picked or just pre-knew.

That is not the major point here. The point is this: whoever does call will be saved. End of discussion. It is not possible for a person to call upon God for salvation, believing that He is, that Christ is raised from the dead, and have God not respond to that prayer.

  • “How, then, will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?”

Here is where it gets close to me: people do not call on Jesus because they do not believe. Why do they not believe?

Because they do not know. They do not know about Him or they cannot trust the sources they have for information, like we Christians. WE CANNOT CONTINUE TO MAKE THE GOSPEL UNBELIEVABLE BY OUR ACTIONS and INACTIONS.

  • “How will they believe if they do not hear? And how will they hear without a preacher?”

Here is where it hits me hard. This is my life: I glorify God by passionately communicating truth to those I encounter. That is what I am supposed to do. So many times, though, I fail to do this. I miss the opportunities to speak the truth. I fail to live the truth.

I wait for the opportunities to come to me instead of going out after them. This is an area that I must improve. It is my largest, consistent failure in life.

That is why this passage disrupts me every time I read it. This is my calling. This is what I should do, what I must do.

This is what we should be about God’s people and Christ’s Church. Nothing less than providing the clear explanation of the Gospel to all those who need to hear. Whether it is those who need to hear amidst the clamor of drying American religion or those who have never heard at all.

Yet we do not. Moreover, I do not.

That must change.

It will change.

 

Let us all get our feet moving.

Today’s Nerd Note: Romans 10:12. No distinctions. Not in class or race, not in wealth or poverty. Not even in language or lack thereof.

We have, for centuries, rebuilt the barriers that Christ tore down. That has to stop. We must strive to proclaim the Gospel in all places, to all people, in ways that they can understand.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Long-haired Freaky People: Numbers 6

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign….(by Les Emmerson, as recorded by Five Man Electrical Band).

I will not pretend to really understand all that went into the hippy song that is the oft-covered “Sign” song. I know this: there were long-haired freaky people long before there were hippies. And there were reasons to be long-haired more than just to be against everything.

In fact, the goal was to be for something in particular. What for? Well, the Nazarite vow section of Numbers 6 actually does not say specifically why people took the Nazarite vows. There is simply the statement that “when a man or woman makes a special vow…” (Numbers 6:2).

Then we have the instructions on how to fulfill that vow. Let’s take this apart and see what happens with it, shall we? Starting with Numbers 6:1:

  • Numbers 6:1 reflects that this passage is instruction from God, the covenant God of Israel, revealed in name as YHWH (see the Nerd Note here). This is not Moses’ idea of fun things to demand of someone who wants to take a step of dedication. These are the words of God on how those vows are to be fulfilled.

Always be certain that any vow you make is based on God’s Word and not on man’s ideas. The latter bring precious little to your life, while the former is greater than anything else.

  • Numbers 6:2 gives us an important insight: this vow was available to any adult within the community of faith. We should be cautious not to obstruct any individual of competent age from making a commitment to God that falls within the parameters of the above point: those based on God’s Word. To tell someone that they cannot make a commitment that is in-line with the Word of God simply because of their gender is nonsense, and has been for 3500 years.

Be careful not to cut lines that God has not endorsed, or build fences that exclude those God has included. At the same time, do not suggest that a temporary vow substitutes for being a part of the covenant community.

  • Numbers 6:3-21 shows us this: making an extended vow to God is not going to be easy. You are going to have a different appearance than those around you, so your commitment will be obvious. You are going to have a different diet than those around you, so your commitment could be obnoxious. You are going to have an unbalanced social life from your non-committed times, so your commitment might be offensive.

Continuing in your commitment will be a major challenge. However, what are your alternative options? You must stand for what you said you would do. This is part of being people of our word as we strive to be people of the Word who belong to the One who is the Word.

Rarely was the Nazirite vow a lifetime commitment, though we often think of it as such because the one named Nazirite in Scripture was called to be one from birth: Samson. However, extra-biblical sources suggest that the typical time of consecration was 30 days.

What about us? Can we be freaky people for 30 days? What would happen if we made a commitment to let nothing separate us from our focus on God for a month? No concerns about our appearance, save for ensuring decency and hygiene. No concerns for social norms, no concerns for typical dietary patterns. Might be interesting.

Today’s Nerd Note: The chapter closes with the “Aaronic Blessing” or the “Priestly Blessing” on the people. This is an interesting end to the section on individual vows and responsibilities, and a curious segue into the next section of Numbers. Why?

It is completely inclusive of the entire covenant people of Israel. Rather than focusing on any one group, this is for all of them. Now, some interpreters see varied uses for this passage and differing moments when it would be used, but there is little here to define it.

Instead, this is simply given as a blessing to be used, we know not when. It makes for a good close to a worship service. Yet occasion, here, I think is secondary to the message.

Look at this: it is personal, about being in front of God, in the view of God, and greeted with His pleasure. What greater blessing could there be at any time?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book: Pocket Your Dollars

Pocket Your Dollars by Carrie Rocha is a book about finances, but more than that, this is a book about the attitudes that underlie our financial behaviors. Apart from this book, I have no exposure to the Pocket Your Dollars website or to any of Rocha’s financial advice. So, while some liked her prior to snagging this title, I’d never even heard of her.

Of the bat, Pocket Your Dollars addresses Rocha’s qualifications to write a book on finance. Some people write on finance who have never been in debt or set a foot wrong, others who got into trouble and bankruptcied out of trouble, and these folks want to tell the reader how to manage money with advice the author has never used. Rocha is not in that situation, as she and her family did get into debt and then worked out of it.

The bulk of Pocket Your Dollars is broken into three sections. The first addresses attitudes that need changed, the second how to change them, and the third speaks to what comes next: an actual budget.

Rocha’s approach in Pocket Your Dollars is a good one. She recognizes that mindset tends to cause recurring problems more than anything else. While some people are in debt because they overran their insurance and lost their job in the same month, many of us struggle with debt and finances because of our attitudes and opinions of self-worth and value. If we do not address that, Rocha professes, we will never fix our monetary issues.

Her conclusions in Pocket Your Dollars are spot on. The advice on practical matters is, certainly, negotiable: some things work better in differing situations than others. However, work though the attitudes first, and see whether or not you need those specific practical ideas. You’re likely going to find plenty of your own.

I would heartily recommend Pocket Your Dollars for anyone learning personal stewardship and finance. Partner it with a good budgeting tool, and you have a worthwhile basic lesson in getting out of debt---or, if you catch it soon enough, not going there in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised how useful this text was.

A brief word on the nature of Pocket Your Dollars: it is published by BethanyHouse, a Christian book publisher. It is not, however, a primarily Christian text. That means you, non-Christian reader, can find value here. That also means that you, Christian reader, will need to add your study of the Bible to this text. That’s fine—it avoids becoming overly preachy in this manner.

Note: This book was provided to me by the publisher for a review. I was only required to submit the review, not to find the book favorable.

Sermon Recap from June 9

Before we get to the sermon recap, we as a church at Almyra Baptist were saddened to hear of the passing of Mrs. Sherry Diane Lovett this weekend. Our prayers are with her family, especially her husband, Hal Lovett.

Morning Sermon: Audio Link Here

Video Embed:

 

Outline:

Text: James 3:13-18

Date: June 9 AM

Location: Almyra FBC

Title: Be a Wise Guy!

Central Idea: Develop Righteous Wisdom

Theological Idea: Wisdom 

Word for the Sermon: WISDOM

Introduction:

Wisdom: living in fear of God

Investigating 

Show your wisdom in deeds

Demonic substitutes: selfish ambition, bitterness

Orderly or disorderly?

Marks of wisdom: 

  1. Pure
  2. Peaceable
  3. Gentle
  4. Reasonable
  5. Full of Mercy and Good Actions
  6. Unwavering
  7. Straightforward

Application Action: Find a source to grow in wisdom: read a book, discuss wisdom, grow, pass it on...

 

Evening: we recapped VBS and focused on Romans 5:8-11 about the reconciliation of man to God by Jesus at the Cross. There was too much chaos to video :) so it’s just that short statement.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Book: A Season of Mysteries

A Season of Mysteries is the second novel from Rusty Whitener, someone who I apparently should have heard of for his book and screenplay work, but I had not. You can learn more about him by clicking his name above.

Coming back to A Season of Mysteries, it is the sequel to A Season of Miracles. I have nothing to support the idea that his goal is to be A Man for All Seasons, but time will tell. This book focuses on a group of young men moving through their teenage years as part of a Boy Scout troop, after having been part of a winning Little League baseball team.

A Season of Mysteries is a novel that speaks to the realities of the spiritual world as they exist alongside the visible, known world. Whitener portrays the heavy subject matter well, although his writing style is a little dialogue-heavy for my taste.

The plotline developed well. I think the character development leaned a little more heavily on the first book, which I have not read, so I had some difficulty, but that may not be a problem for another reader.

In all, I tried to like A Season of Mysteries. It is well-written, I liked the main characters. And part of my coming-of-age experience was a Boy Scout troop. The individual aspects all seem to be good, but I just could quite get into the book. I will give it another shot later this summer, but somehow there was no grab-I labored to finish it, but came away thinking that it must be better than I found it to be.

A Season of Mysteries is available in both paperback and Kindle edition at Amazon. I will stop short of saying you should read it, but will also not say you should not. It was not to my taste, personally.

Book provided by Kregel Blog Tours in exchange for the review.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Of Trees and Golf Clubs

Tonight, we went out to take the trash to the curb. That way, it sits there all day until the garbage truck actually comes on Saturday. Anyway. Wandered over to check on the grape vines, including the monster vine that is shading the blueberry bush, and I looked up at the oak tree that’s shading the whole kit and kaboodle. There’s a dead branch, about 20 feet up.

Now, that part of the yard is where the kids tend to play, and with the immeasurable mess that is emergency medical care around here (and the billing thereof), I do not need one of the kids having that branch fall out and konk them on the head.

So, what did I do?

Went into the garage to find something to take out the dead branch.

What did I come out with?

A 9-iron. The only golf club I own, to be honest, and my primary snake-removal tool. Steven does use it to golf with a racquetball around the yard, but I use it for, well, other purposes.

Can I reach the branch with the 9?

No. I need a 3-wood. Actually, I need about 15 more feet.

So I throw it.

It is not the first time I’ve thrown a golf club into a tree. I gave up golf because, if I going to walk in the woods, I’d rather take a picnic blanket or an overnight backpacking bag.

What happens?

The golf club sails up, up, into the tree. Long and to the right. Which I should have expected, as that is typical when I swing a club.

It stuck there.

Now, plan B. Ladder. I’m going to climb the ladder, climb the tree, take out the branch and the club. Plan B? Vetoed by wife who has more sense than me.

Plan C?

Basketball! I throw, repeatedly, a basketball at the branch…which finally catches the ball and holds it.

Score: Tree 2, Doug 0.

At this point, I find a large, already downed branch and use it (15-footer!) to pull the dead branch out of the tree. This also frees the basketball.

The branch, however, is not tall enough to rescue the golf club. The solution?

Ever seen Caber-tossing?

Yeah, that didn’t work.

Finally, 40 hook shots and one granny-heave later, and the golf club comes down, takes a 4-inch deep divot out of the ground, and everything gets put away.

Moral of the story?

Use the bow and arrow next time. :)

Never forget home: Romans 9

I am an American. I was born in Texas and have grown up either in the United States or attached to a US military base overseas. This country is my home. More than that, I have a certain region of the country that draws my heart more than any other, and that’s the region that I have spent the most time, here in the South where we say “coke” then ask if you want Coke for that coke or something else.

That’s who I am. Religiously, I’ve been a Southern Baptist since nine months before I took my first breath. Along the way, I have become a Christian and followed that up with becoming a Baptist preacher. A Southern Baptist preacher. And I continue to live in the South.

In short, I’m as Southern Baptist as Paul was Jewish. And when I look at his words in Romans 9, about his compassion for his people to know the truth. About his willingness to suffer for the sake of his home, I am put to shame.

Paul does not pull back, prop up, and lament how bad off things are and how they would be better if people would listen to him. Paul does not highlight those issues which annoyed him, nor does he lament that no one has come along and revitalized the faith.

Instead, he pours out his heart: that if it were possible, he would be cut off from God for his people. His heart is so much driven to the needs of others that he would pay any price possible.

I then stop and consider all the issues that I see in my own people.

I see the running problem with our heritage of racial issues here in the South.

I see the American government continue its decline into tyranny.

I see the Southern Baptist Convention ignore real issues as if it were a parody of itself.

And I can muster a vague “meh” and think about where my future lies. I shift to wondering why I do not just move on to another time, another place. Why do I care about finding positives to remember Stonewall Jackson by, in place of his slave-holding? Why do I want to see us get back to actually using the Constitution after a ten-year hiatus?  Why do I want to see soul competency, priesthood of the believer, and an end to the hierarchy building?

I want it for me. I want my future to be secure, my situation to be fine.

Where is my heart?

That just does not sound like the right thing. It sounds like my attitude falls far short of the ideal. Why will I not pay any price?

This is the challenge of Romans 9. This chapter is not simply about sorting through eschatological issues or discerning the identity of Israel. (Here’s a hint, there: Israel is descended from this guy in Genesis who is called….Israel.)

This chapter is about a simple question: Why will we not make simple sacrifices for the sake of home?

Home needs us. Yet we are worried about a great many other things. More than that, home needs the Gospel.

This is not a call to abandon the mission of telling the world. Nor a call to ignore everything else—I agree with the classic quote that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (first record I can find is Martin Luther King, Jr., although I think I have seen someone attempt to trace where he first heard it.).

It is, however, to make this point: never forget home. Never forget where you came from, and be willing to do whatever is necessary to meet the real needs.

Today’s Nerd Note: The rest of Romans 9 is rich with Old Testament references and allusions, pointing to the electing purposes of God and to the glory of God’s grace. Take a read through it. Think about it.

Then look at Romans 9:21 and consider the old standby hymn that has us sing “Thou art the potter, I am the clay.” Are we going to complain that God molded some of us ordinary, while others got the looks, brains, whatever else? I am what I am.

Let me be grateful for His grace and be used as His vessel.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A test for what? Numbers 5

This being a blog and not an academic paper, I will give you this statement with no real evidence: a large percentage of violence in this country is visited upon one lover by another in a fit of rage. I saw the numbers in part of the ongoing gun-control debate—statistics that can be shaded to both sides, honestly, and cannot now find them. So, I will not assert a specific amount, but I will assert this: there is substantial statistical evidence that being in a romantic relationship that goes bad increases the risk of violence in one’s life.

Why is that?

Because our hearts, and our sexual passions, are not particularly fond of rational behavior or reasonable choices. These are frequently the drivers of our romantic entanglements rather than our logical, reasonable sides. So, when there is damage in the relationship, it does not always end well. The most typical, I think, is self-harm but the close second is to lash out at the other in the relationship.

This amplifies when one feels like betrayal has entered into the situation. When one’s trust has been abused or one’s love taken advantage of, we tend to be even more out of control than if we were just slapped by a random stranger.

Now, when you take that situation and mix it with a culture that establishes strict penalties for adultery, there is a major risk. Mix it with a culture that establishes a strong patriarchal structure and it gets worse. What is a wife to do, for example, if she is accused by her husband? He will not take her word for anything, and adultery, unlike many other crimes, rarely has true witnesses. Especially in those days…fewer private eyes with telephoto lenses.

We have to place ourselves into this mindset before we come to Numbers 5 and the Adultery Test. This was a society that needed a way to protect against the foolishness of men. To insulate women who were, by the nature of the culture, dependent on men, from the fragile male ego.

Now, it is easy for us to simply read this section and write it off as just that: the product of a by-gone era and lamentable because women were not simply elevated to equal status in that society. If that is as far you want to read, then you can. I do not, however, think the Old Testament is given so that we can feel superior and more advanced than a culture organized about 3500 years ago.

Honestly, if all you have is that you are more enlightened than people from three-and-a-half millennia ago, your self-esteem is in the wrong place.

Instead, let us take a look at what we can possibly learn from this passage, shall we?

1. We can learn that even among the people of God, sin happens. This should be obvious, but we miss it: people sin. Sometimes, people sin by assuming someone else has sinned and rushing to judgment. Other times, people sin and think they have gotten away with it.

2. We can learn not to trust self-investigation. The husband was to seek outside help in determining guilt here, and the wife was to trust the outside help to uphold her innocence. In the Old Testament it was the priest, but we have more specialized investigators these days. If you need someone investigated for observing Easter on the wrong date, I can handle that. Got a crime? Let us call the Arkansas State Police, ok?

3. We can learn to wait for the evidence. I know that CSI solves it in an hour. Guess what? Toxicology takes weeks because of the chemistry involved. The Adultery Test here, it might have taken some time. Wait for the evidence. Justice delayed is justice denied, but justice uncertain is not justice, either—wait for the evidence.

That is not to say that you will always have certainty. But if there is evidence that can be developed, wait for it to all be brought in.

4. We can learn that people need strange things to get along in society. I can find no mention in my OT sources that this was ever recorded as being used, but such trial-by-ordeal ideas lasted for centuries. People did this to each other because trust breaks down so easily. We have to be trustworthy people to be trusted, and we have to extend to others the opportunity to be trusted.

In all, this passage is odd. If we were to re-edit the Bible, we’d likely just leave it out. But it’s there, so we read it, discuss it, and move on. It is part of the Law, but we see in Romans how the Law only helped us see what sin we had, and how we are free to walk in the Spirit. Let’s do so, and not keep testing other people’s faithfulness.

Today’s Nerd Note: Take a look at Numbers 5:8: there is a line here about how the restitution for wrong was to be given to the one wronged, and if there was no one left, then it went to the religious structures. Remember that there was a complete unity of religion and government at the time.

Justice was about striving to make right to the person wronged, first. Society had an interest in that, but not a profit interest. Our society, with its failing justice structures, has inverted this: victims are rarely even considered in the making-whole process and instead the system benefits the most: lawyers are paid, fines are collected, the state takes custody. Along the way, eventually, the owners of stolen property pay $300 to get their trailer from the impound lot, people pay their own therapy bills or their own medical bills, and the system overlooks them.

How could we improve justice structures by making restoration to the victim the priority?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Labor Pains: Romans 8

The Apostle Paul and I share something in common. Neither of us have ever experienced labor pains, but that does not mean we will abstain from speaking of them as an illustration. Now, depending on your view of Paul’s biography, I may have a minor leg up in that I have been with someone through three sets of labor pains and he likely was not, but being there and being the one laboring are quite different.

Romans 8, though, uses the metaphor of childbirth to make a very clear point about the reality of the world we live in. Starting in Romans 8:18 and running through Romans 8:224, Paul underlines the contrast between the present suffering of creation and the future glory of eternity. Amidst that, he highlights the prominence of Christian believers in both of those aspects.

The comparison to childbirth makes the point well. There is the anticipation of something great, something that is partially known but not completely, yet it awaits on the other side of much pain and trouble. I can well remember waiting on our first two children to enter this world, not knowing if we would be seeing a little girl or a little boy. There was anticipation in the midst of the mystery and misery. There was that question—is this worth it?

I remember watching the pain and struggle on my beloved wife’s face as she went through the labor process. A few thoughts passed through my head. One of them being my responsibility for the pain she was in…another being about how the end of this, no matter how hard, was going to be worth it. And one being about how, no matter what, there would be a special bond between mother and child that would start at that point, and it would take years before Dad shared in it.

Then the pain got worse, and all I could see was the suffering. That’s it. Just the pain, just the frustration. The tears. When our son was born, I could see the strained look on the medical people’s face as they looked at blood pressures and saw them unhooking everything to roll down the hall for him to come out differently. That didn’t happen—the doctor took a last look and realized that he, after delaying to the point of trouble, was coming right then.

I think Paul is in those stages, and sees his fellow believers in those stages, when he writes this part of Romans 8. There is no fluffy “We can do this without pain medication!” talk anymore. There’s no watching M*A*S*H reruns (or baseball games!) on the LDR room TV. There is barely any thought of the outcome.

Just the painful process.

And he writes this to remind us a few important things:

1. You are not the only one suffering through the pains right now. It does not lighten your burden, true, but there is something to be said for not being alone. I will take Ann’s word for it, but she claims that having me there with her, even though I was not in pain, helped. Realize this: even though others are not suffering like you are, they are with you. They are there for you.

2. Go ahead and carry that image: it is the stuff of TV programs where the nurses, the doctor, and the patient are all pregnant and in labor at one time. In reality, there is one person going through the process and others are there to help. Some via expertise, some via presence. And some by staying away and keeping others safe, like Ann’s parents who had our other child/children both when the next one was born. If you are not in the midst of it, you are there to help others who are in it.

Alongside this: that is not the time to discuss how it happened. If you wanted to discuss family planning with us, during the birth our children was not the time. Nor was it the time to tell me about all my other shortcomings or how inadequate of a father I would be. One can address those things at a more appropriate time.

3. Paul points to the other side of suffering. He does not minimize the reality of it—after all, his view of birth pains did not include epidurals, sta-dol, or even Motrin for recovery. He simply focuses on the far side, the end-result and tells the Romans the suffering will be worth it.

That the suffering gives us the opportunity for hope, and that hope is what sustains us.

That’s a good thing, is it not?

We need the hope. The glorious thing about the hope we have in Christ is that there is no downside: there is a certainty that God will bring us through, that the result will be better than a baby that sleeps at night and smiles and snuggles all day long.

That is the hope of Christ. That God will, by the power of His Spirit and the sacrifice of Jesus, bring about better than can be imagined. That we are not left to find the light and follow it, but are drawn by God and pulled in by His love.

Today’s Nerd Note: Romans cannot really be done justice with a chapter a post, but that’s all I’m doing. Read it, re-read it.

Get it all in context. Be careful of the oft-misrepresented passage at Romans 8:28. All things are not good. All things work together for our good. There is a substantial difference.

Further, this chapter gives us a great hold on the assurance of salvation. Read 8:26-39 again. Look at how God is the one who saves, ordains, predestines, and sustains. Nothing separates us not from our faith but from His love. That’s a beautiful difference—it is not our strength but His will.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sermon Recap for June 2

We start VBS tonight, so there’s no sermon from tonight. And I will not be filming my teaching children this week, so don’t look for that either!!

Sermon on James 3:1-12

Audio Link is here.

Video Embed is here:

Outline:

Introduction:

At 1208 on April 23 of this year, the US stock markets began a rapid plunge, losing about 1% of its value in the span of about 2 minutes. Commodities prices fluctuated, gold jumped, and panic set in...

Why?

Because a tweet from the Associated Press indicated a terrorist attack had hit the White House and injured President Obama.
Now, for some of you, a tweet means the sound of a bird, but in today's technology world it's a short internet statement consisting of no more than 140 characters. A character is a space, a letter, or a punctuation mark

140 characters was enough to push the US economy in a bad direction--and just 2 minutes later, push it back right as the announcement came through that this was a false statement, not officially issued, and the event never happened.

But the words were enough to threaten serious risk. Imagine if there had not been a rapid correction?

We need to consider the power of words....

James 3:1-12

Text

I. Sub-sermon: watch out if you teach--and this statement also justifies this: be strict about who you allow to teach you!

II. Small steering devices

III. More often small things are destructive rather than helpful

IV. Clear it up: if your heart is fresh in Christ, then you will reveal it in the streams of WORDS from you

Words are powerful reflectors of who we are

Online matters as much as spoken

Redemptive speech is the call of the believer

Destructive words are unacceptable

Sin is not undone by words (Proverbs 10:19)

Application Action: This week, seek an opportunity to build with words. Especially if you can find someone who you have previously harmed with your words, and build them up instead after unconditionally repentingof your harm.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Book: Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness

Note: A few years ago, I did a review of Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (find it here). He has not put out a major book since then, though he has been busy essaying and speaking and preparing for his next book. That next book is today’s review book, provided by Booksneeze, Thomas Nelson Publishing’s Book Review Blog Program.

Biographies. The idea of reading them often intimidates me. After all, while there is much to learn in the lives of others, do I really want to wade through the minutiae of an individual life? There is a gap between the usefulness of reading biographies and the challenge of wading through them.

There are a couple of solutions to the dilemma of wanting to read biographies but not wanting long ones. The first is simple in this house: we’ve got kid-level biographies stacked to the ceiling. (Literally, on organize the bookshelves day.) Those, though, often miss the deeper ideas that challenge the mind and heart.

The second solution is a book like Eric Metaxas’ 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness. This is, essentially, a bundle of seven abridged biographies. Metaxas highlights specific character traits from the lives of these seven men:

  • George Washington
  • William Wilberforce
  • Eric Liddell
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Pope John Paul II
  • Chuck Colson

The focus is more on a specific evidence of that one trait than on exploring the whole life of each individual.

By nature, each chapter has to be short, and so the biographies leave many events out. Further, critical analysis of the whole life of the treated individual. That is the nature of these types of biographical works. You may see it as a shortfall or a benefit—it’s like ordering the sampler at a new restaurant. You get to try a lot and decide what you’ll want more of later.

Even with the necessary brevity, 7 Men does not fall completely into hagiography. Metaxas points out, for example, the contradiction in Washington’s battle for liberty and his continued ownership of slaves. The men detailed were not perfect, and Metaxas does not attempt to portray them as such.

The other criticism I have is mixed. The book is, after all, 7 Men. Therefore, the presence of only men is expected, but I hope to see a volume on 7 women sometime soon. Further, I think that, while including Jackie Robinson keeps the book from being a whitewash, there are continents besides Europe and North America that have produced great men (and women).

In all, since the goal here was to highlight only seven men, Metaxas has hit it well. It is not, certainly, an exhaustive list of great people, but a good intro biography for each of the seven named above. It should whet your appetite to learn more about some of them, and help the reader grow.

Free book from Booksneeze in exchange for the review.

Service/Sermon Recap for October 25 2020

Good morning! Here are the service replays from today: Facebook Morning: YouTube Morning: Facebook evening: Wednesday Evening: And remember ...