Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book: The Gospel Call and True Conversion

A quick note: This book, The Gospel Call and True Conversion, is currently available on Kindle for $4.99. This is the second in a series of 3, and the first, The Gospel’s Power and Message, is available for $2.99.

The Gospel Call and True Conversion. The title of this book alone sounds intimidating, and adding that it’s written by one of the heavyweights of American Reformed Christianity, Paul Washer, does not lessen the intimidation factor. Washer is known to be a straightforward preacher—for good or for ill.

What did I find in The Gospel call and True Conversion? I found some things to like:

1. Paul Washer is passionate for the truth. He wants to know the truth. He wants to proclaim the truth. He wants the truth heard. He wants you to know the truth.

This is good. It is good to see someone not try to base theology on popularity or as a response to modern events, but to base it clearly on truth.

2. There is a strong emphasis on the reality that true conversion (from the title) will result in fruit in the life of believers. Washer is presenting the view that the truly saved will act out a pattern of behavior reflective of God’s holiness, though salvation is by grace, the evidence of salvation is demonstrable in works.

3. Washer is absolutely after theological precision. One cannot read this book and not see where he stands on the issues of salvation, grace, and conversion.

That being said, I think it should be clear what his position is. Washer is a strong advocate of a Calvinistic view of Scripture and salvation. That is, he sees Scripture clearly supporting the idea that Jesus died for a certain group of people, the elect. These are known by God and the only ones capable of responding to the “Gospel Call.” This view highlights the sovereignty of God above other attributes or issues in salvation.

The Gospel Call and True Conversion approaches theology as if this way, and only this way, of seeing salvation is right. If you are of a more Arminian or Wesleyan view, you will likely take offense at his certainty.

The other issue I would take with The Gospel Call and True Conversion is Washer’s assertion that the “Gospel” has been lost. While I can see the issues that exist, I would personally suggest that losing the Gospel would be synonymous to the gates of Hell prevailing against the church, which is explicitly rejected in Scripture. The issue I see here is a bit of harshness expressed in the communication of truth.

While I agree there are times to be direct, I am not certain that the direct approach throughout is effective. Sometimes, hammering is critical. Other times, a hammer only hurts.

In all, while I would not circulate The Gospel Call and True Conversion for a Sunday School class, I do think it adds depth to theological study. Not the most critical text on theology available, but certainly of value.

I received this book free through Cross Focused Reviews. Free book, and I write a review. That’s about it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Complaint Department: Numbers 11

I can’t remember the Western movie this line is from, but I once heard an actor say “Some people wouldn’t be happy if you hung them with a new rope.” Now, I can’t say that I’d be happy if you hung me with any sort of rope, but the point was more about how people just complain and complain…

This is where the Israelites are in Numbers 11. They’re not happy. Why? Because all they have to eat is the miraculous bread from heaven that God has been feeding them with, and they have nothing to do but follow the obvious presence of God to the Promised Land. What God? Oh, just the one that they have recently seen bring them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and so forth…

And the complaining does not stop with them. We read Moses like hagiography, and miss the second half of this chapter: Moses has his whiny moments, too. YHWH, the Covenant God of Israel, has to listen to Moses fuss about the call of God in his life. Moses fusses that he never wanted this job, and really would prefer to be left alone.

In fact, he hits Numbers 11:15: “Please kill me at once.” Or, in modern Daff-nese:

Daffy, mimicking Moses

It’s just an unhappy passage. The chapter does not get much better. God points out to Moses that he has elders to assist him, so Moses shouldn’t be whining. God then brings quail like the snow geese on a wheat field, and so the people ate meat until they were sick. Literally, actually, as they were stricken with a plague as they ate it.

I do find it of note that the plague at stake is one of the few that does not specify a death toll. It is hard to be certain if this is because the results were simply bad illness, or if there were unrecorded deaths here.

Of greater application, though, is the question of complaining. We like to do that even now, don’t we? We complain about this, that, and the other…often without truly considering how we are blessed beyond measure. How so?

In the same manner the Moses and Israel were blessed:

  • We are provided for. Now, you are right to say that you work for your living, true. How much does your work provide? What makes that farm bring forth a crop? And what allows you to eat more than the hay you raise? Why are you able to take your financial wizardry and get milk? Do we honestly ascribe all of these things to our own ingenuity and forget our Creator?
  • We are protected. First and most obviously, by men and women at arms but there is more than that. Great armies have often faltered. Moreover, just this year a rock of substantial size came closer to earth than the satellites that make international communication work orbit…people, we are protected more than we know.
  • We are provided with. With what? Companions. Notice that there are very few lone heroes, even in our mythologies. Beowulf had companions, Frodo had companions, even the Lone Ranger flopped with Tonto. Look around. You may be alone for a time, and you may think that time is eternal, but there are connectivity points everywhere. Reach out and connect.
  • We are preceded. By God, who has already been there and back, and still occupies both the now and the then. That should be a comfort.

So, what do we do?

First, we trust. We trust God with our complaints and our struggles—but we learn to share them rightly. Rather than whine at others, we pour our hearts out to God.

Second, we travel. Not always literally, but always in obedience. God gets the people moving on at the end of the chapter. So should we be: stagnant behavior leads to sour begrudgings. Get moving, get following.

Finally, we train. We put our efforts into being ready. We dedicate ourselves for what we know is coming, and that is the trial that living in a sin-soaked world is.

As we practice this, we will see our complaining shrink. We may never lose it all…but we can stow some of it.

Today’s Nerd Note: Numbers 11:21 hits us with a mixed conundrum on the numbers of Numbers. Back in the early part of the book, we faced the seemingly over-large numbers of Israelites. Some estimates put the warriors at 600,000 and up, and the totals at 2.5 million. Others think that number is way too high, and look for reasons why the text allows lower. (See nerd note here)

Either estimation method has to wrestle with Numbers 11:21, where Moses appears to count the total of Israel at 600,000. Allowing for rounding, that’s still too many for the allegorical view, or even for the “thousands as military divisions” view. It’s not enough for the actual count as one-to-one.

Either way, though, it shows part of what is necessary in dealing with one section of Scripture: you must look to find other mentions of the same concept. This is also true of such issues as Creation understandings and Flood accounts. Where else is the “question” passage referred to? Who says what about it there?

Monday, July 29, 2013

This has to stop. Now.

This past weekend brought more news of so-called accidental shootings with firearms. Without researching exactly how many, I know this puts just the state of Arkansas at more than one fatality and more than 10 injuries in the past six months from unintended firearms use.

People, this has to stop. Now.

As a preface, though, this is not an anti-gun rant. In truth, this is an in-house rant directed at my fellow gun owners, with that fear of being hoist on my own petard later.

Hoist on my own petard? You know, that’s about gunpowder, too, come to think of it.

Coming back to the point at hand: those of us who own firearms, we are responsible for the usage of those firearms. You own it, you own the responsibility for it.

Leave it loaded? You are responsible to keep it out of a child’s hands.

Taking it to the store? Or gun show? You are responsible for making sure you don’t shoot someone there.

Carrying it in the car? On your person? You are responsible for what happens with that weapon.

Now, a firearm that was reasonably stored and was still stolen, that’s on the thief…but if you left it laying on your car seat in midtown at mid-day, and it got filched? You did that.

You are responsible.

The decision to own a firearm is the decision to behave responsibly with it. This is not rocket science. Keep in mind what you own: a firearm. What is it?

Simply put, as we have taught our children, a firearm is a tool for making living things dead.

That’s it. A tool for making living things dead. Like a hammer is a tool for hitting stuff really hard, a firearm is a tool with a purpose inherent in its design. Drop a hammer on your toe, and it’s painful. Because it’s a tool for hitting stuff really hard, it’s not really the hammer’s fault, either, is it?

Likewise with a firearm. It’s a tool for making living things dead. That’s the inherent design of guns.

For example: I have a rifle that has been used to make living deer dead. They then process onward into my freezer. It’s a happy exchange. I have friends who use shotguns to do the same with ducks.

However, those firearms are just as capable of making living people dead as they are game animals. Who is responsible for that?

The person who pulls the trigger. When I shoot a deer, I am responsible if another hunter is standing behind the deer and I shoot him, too. I may not be guilty, but I am responsible.

I also own a handgun. I have a permit that legally clears me to have it with me in multiple states. When I do have it with me, it weighs more heavily than the One Ring on Bilbo at his eleventy-first birthday. Why? Because I am responsible for walking or driving about with a tool that is designed to make living things dead.

What if I choose wrongly? What if I am just careless?

My fellow gun owners, we need to wake up. We need to take responsibility for the tools that we own. We cannot prevent every firearm crime—there are too many illegal guns on the streets. Neither can we carelessly and unilaterally disarm ourselves—there are too many illegal guns on the streets.

Yet we need to evaluate our own behaviors. Are we storing safely? Are we teaching our children safely? For the record, assuming your kids won’t be curious what’s in Daddy’s sock drawer is foolish. Take the mystery away, don’t build it.

Teach. Proactively, smartly.

Then consider visitors. We had dear, dear friends with us last weekend. They have my four favorite children in the world after my own. These kids are well-behaved, polite, and because of their family situation, pretty unfamiliar with firearms.

So I shifted storage locations to make sure that everything was secure, rather than risking a child walking in with a gun and asking “What’s this?” with her finger on the trigger.

We have to think.

Think. Consider the worst possible thing that could happen, and strive to prevent it.

We are responsible for what happens with our firearms. If you plan on using one for self-defense, whether carried or home-based, you need to practice and prepare. You need to consider your shooting lines, your reasons for doing so, and how you are going to avoid confrontations rather than shoot your way out.

We have to train.

Train. Train your temper under control. Train your macho down.

Train.

The life you save by having a firearm may be your own. The life you save by teaching, thinking, and training may be someone else’s.

A quick observation: I firmly believe that responsible, personal firearm ownership is right on the verge of being a civic duty as much as a basic right. Look at Syria, Egypt, the Thirteen Colonies and recognize that being outgunned by the government does not work well. It has been necessary before, and it will be necessary again.

If you look at the history of empires, there is often this loop. First, independent people with arms carve out a new nation. Sometimes by conquest, sometimes by finding mostly vacant land. Their arms protect and provide.

Then, it is necessary for this fledgling nation to take up arms against a greater nation. Perhaps the Mother Country of a colony, perhaps the neighbor who wants to rule. Either way, arms are necessary, and are matched with organization.

Down the line, the nation establishes enough prosperity and security that the possession of arms becomes the profession of arms, and internal and external security is maintained by a select group. Either by rule or practice, the average citizen gives up being proficient in arms.

Then the whole thing falls apart. Either a corrupt group takes power—sometimes through legal manipulation, sometimes by force, or an outside power conquers. Either way, the existing security forces no longer protect the people.

After some time, either the tyranny fails of its own, or the invaders leave with the loot, or the people tire of living that way. And what do the people need? Arms. Either to form their own security due to the vacuum of power or to drive out those who tyrannize them.

The stop in this cycle, which ebbs and flows across history, is when the people retain their arms. An armed populace slows down the slide and discourages the invader. An armed populace can function to hold on to societal structures.

However, the arms are not the only thing necessary. Hearts and brains are crucial.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up July 28 2013

Good Evening. Here are the sermons from today:

Morning Audio link is here

Morning Video:

Morning Outline:

Farmers: Patient, Waiting, Powerless

Aware of God's nearness: immanence of God

Remember the prophets: suffering to prove faithfulness

Merciful and compassionate: remember the character of God when you do not have a clear picture of the actions of God

Application Action:

Be proactively encouraging to others this week. Write down the name of one person you will encourage this week and what you will do.

Evening Audio Link is here

Evening Video:

 

Thanks!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sermon Wrap-up for July 21

Good Evening!

Here are the the sermon recaps from today. The outlines are not long, so we’ll have morning audio, video, outline and then evening audio, video, outline. Please let me know if you try to access any item and it’s not accessible.

Morning Audio Link is here

Morning Video:

James 5:1-6 1. Filling the calendar 2. Finding a purpose 3. Fire from on high

Evening Audio is here

Evening Video:

Ephesians 5:17-21

Walk wisely! Evil days ahead!

Filled with what?

Foolishness?

Spirit?

Speaking through what?

Thankful submission to one another

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tools and Technology: Nozbe, Evernote, and More

Today, I want to give you a few quick suggestions for workflow tools. I do not have affiliate status with any of these companies, so there’s no benefit to me if you use these, but there may be a benefit to you.

  • First: NOZBE. Somewhere, buried in the website, is the explanation of where the name came from. I don’t remember it at this point. This is an organizational helper app that is multi-platform (Web, PC, Android, and iStuff). I tried it out a few years ago, couldn’t quite get it to work for me, and so I canceled my paid account—right after my trial period, I believe. (Stupid tax paid.) Since then, I have come back to a free account and realize how useful this service is. If you are a user of the Getting Things Done organizational system, this is perfectly setup for it.

If, like me, you aren’t into Getting Things Done, but you are into getting things done, this still works. I have customized out the available projects and contexts so that they work for me, and this is the best recurring-task structure I can find. App for the phone/tablet (although an Amazon App for K-Fire would be nice) makes this handy all the way around. Nozbe allows you to set up a project, assign tasks to it, and assign where those tasks go. Paid accounts have unlimited projects and tasks—cheapskates like me have a project limit, but that has actually been helpful. I have a “School” project, then I assign each class as a context, then I can track school overall.

It’s a powerful system. I think if I knew how to blend both Ann’s and my accounts into a single paid family account (allows up to five users, which would be perfect) I would go to paying for this service.

  • Second: EVERNOTE. I just cannot describe how many ways I use Evernote. This is a note-keeping app that works with mobile devices, tablets, the web, and has a PC app. (And it works on iStuff for you Cult o’Mac folks.) Take a picture, link a file, it all goes across the web to everywhere. Imagine having a giant shelf of 3-ring binders to store all of your material. Then make that searchable. And make it easy to add material to. And make stacks that are like organizing those notebooks on shelves. Then add color-coded tabs that show what additional ideas link notebooks and shelves to other notebooks.

Now you have a general idea of Evernote. Included in the paid version (which we use) is the ability to not only attach a file to a note in Evernote, but searching will search those notes. Including PDFs, pictures, and scanned handwriting. I use Evernote for sermon composition and delivery—I write the sermon in a Sermon Preparation Notebook, then move it to a Sermon Storage Notebook afterwards.

I use Evernote for some financial issues. I’m going to stop getting printed receipts at gas stations, and just snap a photo through Evernote. Then, there’s no missing receipt! Works well for other items like that.

I also use Evernote for my bookshelf inventory. It’s not as awesome as a librarian, but I take high quality pictures of every bookshelf (all my shelves are labeled). Each shelf is a note, and I attach the pictures of shelf A-1 to the A-1 note. I can then type in updates or lend-outs, but the pictures are searchable if I know a title and need to find the book. Plus, I have a cloud-based library in case of emergency.

Evernote generally has good security, though I do not store Credit Card numbers in it.

Evernote, like Nozbe, has more powerful features that I have not explored—but I feel like I get my money’s worth as it stands. These two pieces of software also talk well to each other: notes link to tasks and such.

  • Third: MySMS for Android.  One of my pet peeves about people who text from email capable phones is that text messages disappear when you clear your phone inbox. There ends up being no real record. MySMS? It allows me to text from my phone, PC, Wi-fi only tablet, and automatically stores text messages, by conversation, in Evernote.
  • Fourth: Mobile Banking Apps that let me deposit checks from home. USAA does it. I can do this for my Capital One account that I have because INGDirect got bought out by Capital One, and it’s one of the reasons I haven’t closed that account, given my animosity toward Capital One. I love the convenience of this technology.
  • Fifth: Google Reader is gone. Google lost a bit of like from me for that, but it’s done. now I use Feedly.com for RSS reader purposes. I like it, though I miss the easier sharing to Blogger that reader had.

Those are my tech suggestions for the week!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book: Saving Eutychus

Note 1: You-ti-kus. Probably. It’s hard to be definite, but don’t be intimidated by the name.

Note 2: This book was provided by Matthias Media through Cross-Focused Reviews. It was on my “to-buy” list, but instead I scored a free one in exchange for the review.

Acts 20 has an interesting story along Paul’s route back to Jerusalem. In the city of Troas, Paul preaches and preaches. And preaches. And preaches some more. Somewhere in the midst of the last night, a young man named Eutychus falls out of the window to his death. That would have been a bad night…except the Holy Spirit enabled Paul to raise Eutychus from the dead.

And then go back to preaching.

Saving Eutychus takes its title from this story, but this book is not about the resurrection of the dead. Neither is it a CPR manual for those we bore to death on a Sunday to Sunday basis. Instead, this is a preventative medicine book. Saving Eutychus is about keeping him from dropping dead in the first place.

In all honesty, Saving Eutychus is a tightly-targeted book. If you are not involved in the proclamation and presentation of Biblical truth, this is not going to be of much use to you. If, however, you are involved in teaching or preaching, you are in the target audience here. There is some benefit for those who study rhetoric, but we are talking a pretty specialized book here.

Gary Millar and Phil Campbell co-author Saving Eutychus. These authors have experience in teaching, in preaching, and in teaching preaching. Their work presents an approach to preaching that differs from some current American-written texts on the subject. Instead, they reflect their Irish and Australian backgrounds. Well, I assume so. I don’t know if I should judge all of Ireland and Australia based on these two men.

However, on to content. After all, we’re not interviewing Millar and Campbell. We’re reading their book. Counting the appendices, Saving Eutychus comes in at 168 pages. Having been printed with footnotes, those 168 pages are certainly better than the same 168 pages with endnotes.

Then, we must look at what Millar and Campbell hope to communicate. Saving Eutychus is subtitled “How to preach God’s word and keep people awake.” This is the two-pronged attack: the sermon should be based in God’s Word; the sermon should keep people awake.

I found Saving Eutychus effective in communicating the need for clarity in preaching. Additionally, the authors point out how text-centered preaching will result in a similarity of messages, and how this is not a bad thing in itself. I was surprised to see a personal story that came across as critical of Bill Hybels, but it is placed strictly in the context of ensuring our preaching is about the text, not about common sense.

Having read three books on preaching in the last year, Saving Eutychus was truly the most practical of them. A major reason is that, while Millar and Campbell briefly address Biblical interpretation, this book focuses on the development and delivery of the sermon. It is presented with an underlying assumption that you can study the text and comprehend major ideas from it.

I liked the inclusion of sample sermons and critiques of those sermons. Further, the website at www.savingeutychus.com has the videos of these as well. Also in the appendix one finds blank sermon critique forms, though these can also be downloaded at the same website.

At the present time, if I had the opportunity to have a preaching study group, I would start with Saving Eutychus.

Now a word: not being up-to-date with Australian Evangelicals (or Irish ones living in Australia), I know nothing about the day-to-day ministries of Millar and Campbell. They may or may not be nice people—I know of a few very good books from American preachers who I would neither attend nor recommend attending their churches. That’s one advantage I see in this book, generally: there is no baggage to recommending Millar and Campbell.

Read their book. Be a better preacher. Keep people awake, both physically and spiritually.

And watch God work.

Remember: free book for the review.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Working through Ruth: Chapter 1

These are just the shorthand notes from where I am working through Ruth on Wednesday nights with the church. I am testing a new audio recording system for that, and if it works, I’ll post the audio. Otherwise, I’m just going to give you the notes and some commentary.

Ruth 1

1. When? During the Judges

2. Where? Moab!

3. Who? Elimelch

4. What? Relocation

5. Why? Not for good reasons....but still within God's work

6. How? Abandoning the covenant land and people.

7. What next? Be cautious about leaving the place God has placed you--discern prayerfully whether or not God has you there for a specific reason, even in the midst.

We must be careful: God uses even our bad decisions to His glory, but that does not mean we make those decisions just for fun. Further, be prepared for things to go even more wrong when we do that. Life working out smoothly is not always proof of obedience, neither is it proof of disobedience when things go wrong. That can be an indicator.

More importantly, when you come to the end of your rope, try making your way back to where you belong. If you are one of God’s people, get back with God’s people. Abandon the pursuit of comfort and leisure amidst the ones who mock His name.

Next night:

When you have given up, God is about to work

1. Naomi/pleasant

2. Mara/bitter

We give up. We get hopeless. We move on. We adjust our life to new realities...

And some of those are legitimate adjustments--Elimelech, Mahlon, Chillion are not coming back

But is it that God has treated us bitterly? Or is that coming moment where He is about to do amazing things.

Keep praying. Keep focused

Naomi returns and wants a name change. She is no longer “pleasant” but rather “bitter.” These names could apply to springs of water as they do to people. Some are pleasant and refreshing. Some are bitter. Naomi expresses that she is ready to be bitter and give up on life.

That is really what you see here. Well, if you’re a pessimistic type like me. The optimist sees her returning in faith to Bethlehem, but I see her returning to die and be buried in the land. I see someone with no hope.

Yet it is not long from her abandonment of hope that God works. Some of this work even comes at the hand of Naomi—or at least her advice. Consider this before you give up: God works on an eternal timescale. Are you sure He’s out of time?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Have we never read this? Romans 14

Moving on through the whole Bible, we come to Romans 14. If we thought Romans 13 gave us trouble (check here), I wonder how many of us have actually even read Romans 14. This chapter addresses how we treat our fellow believers who understand Scripture differently than we do.

Now, it is easy to see this only in terms of the specific examples Paul gives in the chapter. Most of us are not excessively concerned with meat sacrificed to idols, and few of us actually debate whether or not church should be on Sunday or Tuesday. There are those who like to bicker about celebrating Easter or Christmas, and we would do well to consider these passages when we talk about those subjects.

I think, though, that we should examine these passages to grasp the principle here. The exact circumstances are fairly clear, and fairly infrequent for us today, so for what reason would the Holy Spirit inspire this passage into Scripture? There is a reason this is here for us today.

The principle here is not too hard to find, if you are willing to look. It is summarized in Romans 14:7-8, where Paul points out that “not one of us lives for himself.”

We make a fundamental mistake when we read Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” We read this and then jump to the conclusion that our freedom is all about us. We are free from sin, free from the Law, free from obligation! We are free from dead religion, free from pursuing righteousness to never find it, free from condemnation and hell! Hallelujah!

Yet then we assume that our freedom is for us to do whatever we darn well please. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our freedom in Christ is certainly about being free from condemnation. Certainly about being free from sin and death. It is not, however, about being free from obligation to our fellow believers.

This is Paul’s message here. You are free. You are strong in the faith. You fathom so many mysteries and subtleties and nuances and happenstances…

Yet you use your freedom and depth of understanding to run roughshod across the needs of your brothers and sisters in Christ. This is plainly unacceptable. So you are strong enough in faith to eat anything, drink anything, worship anytime?

Congratulations. How are you using that for the body? Because you do not live for yourself. You live for the Lord, and are the Lord’s, and ought to strengthen the Lord’s people in all things.

Instead, we continue to judge people by their weaknesses. We go ahead and label based on the temptations, struggles, or failures that we know of. Then we gloat that these are not our problems.

Yet our churches continue to struggle. Why?

Because in our pride of strength, we forget Romans 14:11: Every knee will bow.

Every knee.

Including yours.

Including mine.

There is not a one of us who will not kneel before God Almighty and confess Jesus as Lord and be made acutely aware of how much grace we needed. We will give an account for the stumbling blocks we have set before our weaker brothers. We will give an account for the ways we have been self-serving and chased after meat instead of fellowship.

I cannot think of one church conflict I have seen that was not over failing to live out Romans 14. I know of some from history that were truly over whether or not the Church would be Bible-centered Christian, but many current frets are over demanding that the Christian life be about us.

And it is not, nor has it ever been, about freeing you to do whatever you please. It has always been about freeing you to serve God.

Today’s Nerd Note: Camp out on the last phrase: Whatever is not from faith is sin. What do you do with that?

How can you neglect considering that in the Christian life?

Sermon Wrap-Up for July 14

No, I did not reference Bastille Day in my preaching. I’m a history nerd, but that was a bit too much. I’m going to have the audio and video links for morning and evening, then the outlines.

Morning Sermon Audio Link is here

Morning Sermon Video:

Evening Sermon Audio Link is here

Evening Sermon Video:

Morning Outline for Matthew 26:

Matthew 26:26-35

The covenant of forgiveness:

1: establishes a new relationship

2: new relationship based on grace

3: recognition of the lopsided nature of the relationship

4: acceptance

5: leadership of the Lord

Evening Outline for Psalm 24

Text: Psalm 24

I. Ownership

II. Support

III. Cleanness

IV. Ascension

V. The Hill of the Lord being Calvary

VI. Victory

VII. Celebration

Monday, July 15, 2013

Paging Wynton Marsalis: Numbers 10

Ok, so the great musician obviously was not available in the Exodus, but Numbers 10 starts off speaking of silver trumpets, so I couldn’t help but jump to an old album of Wynton Marsalis my band director had. This one, actually:

which, I don’t actually have a copy of, but the two silver trumpets caught my eye way back when, and now we come to a Scripture passage about the silver trumpets.

What I like about the trumpets of Numbers 10 is their use to call people to action. The people had to learn what to listen for, and by God’s grace we now live in an age with saxophones as well as trumpets, but let’s take this apart for a moment.

First, the trumpets are blown to assemble the people. If both horns toot, then the whole assembly is to gather. If just one trumpet is sounded, then the leaders are to gather. That’s not too hard to figure or to hear, but what can we learn from this?

How about that there were not too many “secret leadership meetings” for the Israelites during the Exodus? You’re assembling the leadership meeting by blowing a trumpet that everyone can hear! While I would hesitate to say that the meetings were completely open, one should realize that there was no way to hide the meeting. We can learn from this in our churches and coordinated Christian work: secrecy rarely helps the community.

Scripture is clear about some behaviors remaining secret: anything that would allow for self-aggrandizement or position seeking should be kept secret, like financial giving or personal ego builds. However, the decision making processes cannot be held sub rosa all the time. It should be the exception, not the rule.

Second, the gathering of all the people. There were calls for the whole of the people to assemble, and there are no recorded exceptions. This is important: that which involves everyone ought to involve everyone. That’s not even a conversation that should have to be had, but we still have it. Consider the mixed multitude that goes up in the Exodus (see Exodus 12 or here). There were ethnic Israelites in the Assembly. There were some Egyptians, some Cushites (Moses’ wife, for example), and plenty of other folks.

And the Assembly of Israel included all of them. Not some of them.

Finally, I would point you to Numbers 10:5-10, when there is a time and place to blow an “alarm” and a time and a place just to sound the trumpets. This is reflected to this day in bugle calls: there’s “assembly,” “reveille,” “mail call” and many others (check this page out). We should be certain to use the right calls at the right time, that others may follow what is appropriate!

Today’s Nerd Note: Numbers 10:29-33 records the interaction with Hobab, son of Reuel, Moses’ father-in-law. This would, logically, make Hobab Moses’ brother-in-law, but that is not how he is described.

Moses appeals that Hobab go with Israel to help with the camping needs, and it appears that Hobab agrees. This shows that Moses has begun to recognize his need for help.

It is interesting to note that Hobab is not offered a place within the community. Instead, he is offered that the people will reward him as God rewards them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Can we skip this one? Romans 13

I’ll say it up front: I would be far happier if Romans 13 were not in the Scripture. All the other parts of Romans, all of the slightly hard to understand parts, all of the deep theological parts, all of those I am fine with. I enjoy wrestling with those, debating those, pondering those.

Romans 13, on the other hand, is not hard to understand. It’s not really “deep theology” either. There’s nothing here to wrestle with. This is straightforward, no nonsense, action-oriented writing.

And it is very, very difficult to take. Start with verse 1 and realize that this applies to any aspect of government that does not demand clear disobedience to God and God’s Word. Any. That traffic control sign? That excessive tax? That annoying body cavity search before flying?

All of it. Why? Because governing authorities are established by God, even ones that photograph every piece of mail in the system. And those authorities are there to keep order. This is why we go ahead and get building permits and don’t park in front of fire hydrants.

“Wait a minute! What about when the government is wrong?” Wrong how? Wrong biblically or wrong for your convenience? Are they making you drive slowly or taking more of your paycheck than you want, or demanding you pay to kill unborn children? See, when it’s the former, we need to come back here. When it’s the latter, then Acts 5:29.

Additionally, for those of you in the United States and other constitutional republics (we are NOT a democracy—never have been, see Nerd Note 1 at the end): are the branches of government the authority? Or is it the founding documents and constitution of your nation? This is relevant: the US, UK, and many other Western-style republics work like this: the ruling authority is not a person, it’s a codified system. For the US, it is primarily the US Constitution, as amended (also in Nerd Note 1), and the body of laws built out of that. Your responsibility is to the law, not the Congress or the President. Your loyalty is always to Christ Jesus.

Keep in mind, Paul writes this to the church at Rome. Not the church at Jerusalem or at Britannia or at Hispania, the churches at the edges of the Empire. He addresses those right smack in the middle of the power. No one would have been more aware of the issues of the government than the Romans. No one would have been more inclined to be involved in conniving to replace Caesar, either.

Paul’s point is that the Christian life is focused on following Christ, and that allowing squabbling with the government to get in the way of that is foolish. Pay the taxes you owe, fulfill your responsibilities, and then focus on loving your neighbor and living as children of light, even in the midst of the darkness.

Further, Paul’s closing verses are equally challenging. Put aside carousing, sensuality, strife, jealousy—and make NO provision for the flesh to follow these. Too often, we make little provisions for the flesh in these matters. We allow the flesh to be entertained by these things, we allow the soundtrack of our lives to glorify these things.

Then we wonder why our faith barely sustains us in the hard times and transmits to others with more difficulty than passing a Frisbee in a hurricane. We give allowance to the flesh and then the flesh takes it all. This is not to call us into a dead legalism, and it certainly is not about me being the Holy Spirit for you—but it is about each believer using their freedom to glorify God.

Really and truly, while Romans 10 is challenging about being deliberate to spread the Gospel, Romans 13 is jam-packed with practical commands from God through the Scriptures. And the real life implications of those commands are pretty stout:

  • Honor all laws legally instituted that do not contradict God’s Law.
  • Focus on showing love to the people around you.
  • Behave properly, as one who expects their behavior seen and known.

All pertinent and troubling. That’s enough to keep me busy for a few years. How about you?

Nerd Note 1: The US is not and never has been a “democracy.” We have the freedom to vote on the representatives who will make the laws that we, in turn, agree to follow. This is for practical reasons—can you imagine needing to have 200 million people vote on every law? This is for reasonability reasons—look simply at Justin Bieber. Is a majority of Americans always sensible?

The end result, though, is that we elect people not because of what we think, but because we think they will do the right thing. It is actually not that a Representative or Senator is obligated to do 51% of the constituency wants. That person was elected to vote what that person thinks is the right thing to do. The accountability comes at the next election: if 51% disagree, then a new person is elected.

Further, this complicates both race and gender issues. There’s much nonsense about how male legislators vote on “women’s issues” and shouldn’t, since they are not women. Except that our system of government does not work that way. My wife is represented in the Arkansas Legislature and the US Congress by men. I do not know if she voted for them, nor will I ask. But insisting that a man not vote on a so-called women’s issue removes her representation in government.

Additionally, the Constitution is the “Supreme Law of the Land.” There are methods for amending the Constitution, and those amendments, while separately listed, technically become the text of the document. So, the Constitution has been corrected for bad decisions in its writing, like allowing slavery. With the exception of the 18th and 21st Amendments, every Amendment has been positive for the nation. Those two cancel each other out, so they are not anything.

But following the Constitution is following it as amended. Because that’s the document. And that is the ultimate rule of law in this nation. Which means that there are conditions and situations where one might openly rebel against Washington D.C. and not be in violation of Romans 13, even if the spark of that rebellion was not a call to disobey God. Our established authority is the Constitution and all legally authorized laws established through its means. If the Federal System or a state system exceeds those means, then they are not the authority.

Nerd Note 2: Look at the idea of paying what is owed, but then connect Romans 13:7 with Romans 13:8: pay what you owe, but owe nothing if possible. While perfectly relevant for your Dave Ramsey course, this extends even farther than that, just as the rest of the chapter is all-encompassing. Do not limit this to being just about money.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sermon Wrap-up July 7

Note: Video boxes for morning and evening are at the end, audio links and outlines are first.

Morning Audio Link is here

Morning Outline:

July 7 AM FBC Almyra

Text: James 4:17
Date: July 7 AM
Location: FBC Almyra

To the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to that one it is sin.

I. Know the good

A. For the spread of the Gospel

B. For the strength of the church

C. For the sake of others

II. Act

A. Not just think

B. Our behavior is what we believe

III. Act without delay

A. Not without consideration

B. But without delay

IV. Because God's people strive to avoid sin

A. Not because we lack grace

B. But because of the glory of God's grace

Evening Audio Link is here

Evening Outline:

Text: 1 Peter 2:4-10

Date: June 23 12013 PM

Location: Almyra FBC

Central Idea: Being made into a people

Theological Idea: Why the World Needs the Church

1. Stumbling on Jesus

2. Building Peculiar People

3. Made into a People

4. People who are the Light

Morning Sermon Video
Evening Sermon Video

Friday, July 5, 2013

Weekly News

Here are some tidbits that I found a little odd this week:

1. NSA-Whistleblower Snowden is apparently in Russia, stuck like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, and trying to figure out where to go. Enter Russian spy Anna Chapman, who proposes via Twitter: “Snowden, will you marry me?”  No word on whether or not this would fix his asylum requests, but it sure does spice up the movie about this mess. Why Twitter? Well, if Snowden’s right, the governments of multiple countries are listening to your phone calls anyway…

2. Egypt overthrew their government just two years ago. At the time, many people were concerned that the chaos would lead to a semi-dictatorship at the hands of a hardline Islamic group. The Morsi government, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, sure looked like that was the case, but we sent them weapons anyway. Now, guess what? They’ve overthrown the government for being a semi-dictatorship overly controlled by a hardline Islamic group.

That’s not the odd part. The odd part is this: FoxNews spells the now-former President of Egypt’s name as Morsi. CNN spells it Morsy. I’m not sure if it’s too right-wing to have the “I” or overly Communist to have the “y.” No real explanation on why MSNBC keeps referring to him as Jeb Bush’s lost brother.

3. Apparently, cast members of the TV show Big Brother were caught making racist comments. You mean self-promoting narcissists aren’t always nice people? Wow.

4. Someone is creating a digital comic book series based on Saved by the Bell and Airwolf. Here’s hoping they don’t make that a mashup and give Zach an almost indestructible combat helicopter.

5. In parts of NASCAR that I do not understand, why do they penalize teams for catching an illegal part in pre-race, pre-qualifying inspection? Isn’t taking the parts off the car and making you redo it enough? I understand zapping someone for cheating during the race, but before they do it? Imagine this in the NFL: “Alright, you will kickoff from your own end zone. We noticed that a few of your guys were across the line during warm-ups, so that’s an offside penalty.

6. I have a book to read next week called Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans: An Introduction to Key Thinkers and Philosophies. Why? Because I think the truth of God is part of reality, and so is visible even in those who reject Him, so I want to learn.

7. I loved the story of the man who hogtied a burglar and left him in the yard for the police. How much you want to bet he’s going to get in trouble, though?

8. The State Department spent $630K on Facebook likes, and still people don’t like them. Facebook advertising may not be that great, folks.

9. First No-hitter of baseball this season was pitched by the guy who pitched the last one of last year. What’s he doing, monopolizing the stat?

10. Google Reader was retired this week, ending one of the ways in which I waste time. I will fill this void with more Twitter follows.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

  He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

  He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

  He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

  He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

  He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

  He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

  He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

  He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

  He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

  He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

  He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

  He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

  He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

  For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

  For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

  For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

  For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

  For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

  For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

  For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

  For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

  For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

  He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

  He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

  He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

  He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

  He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Delegates


John Hancock
Button Gwinnett
George Wythe
William Floyd
Lyman Hall
Richard Henry Lee
Philip Livingston
George Walton
Thomas Jefferson
Francis Lewis
Benjamin Harrison
Lewis Morris
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
William Hooper
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Joseph Hewes
Carter Braxton
Richard Stockton
John Penn
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
Robert Morris
John Hart
Edward Rutledge
Benjamin Rush
Abraham Clark
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Benjamin Franklin
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
John Morton
Arthur Middleton
George Clymer
Stephen Hopkins
James Smith
William Ellery
George Taylor
James Wilson
Samuel Adams
George Ross
Roger Sherman
John Adams
Samuel Huntington
Robert Treat Paine
William Williams
Elbridge Gerry
Caesar Rodney
Oliver Wolcott
George Read
Thomas McKean
Samuel Chase
Josiah Bartlett
William Paca
William Whipple
Thomas Stone
Matthew Thornton
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Knowing Who You Are

I had the honor this past week of seeing another pastor research part of his family history. I will leave most of the personal parts of his story out, because it’s not my story to tell. I’ll summarize, though, so that you know what happened. His father was also a pastor, and pastored several churches in the late 40s and 50s, before my pastor friend was born.

A few years back, he set a goal of visiting all the places his father had pastored before my friend was born. Sure enough, many years back, his father pastored in Immanuel, Arkansas. Immanuel is near Almyra, and is actually in Almyra’s ZIP code with the USPS. Poor decisions in history are why Almyra was granted the Post Office and Immanuel was not, but that’s a matter for another time.

It was remarkable to see how my friend took in every detail out at his father’s former ministry. Even though the building was gone, the church remains, because true churches are not about buildings. He was able to connect with a current church leader who had the history of the congregation, and who graciously allowed us into the facility to see where they are now.

This leads me to my question, both for me and for you:

Do you know who you are?

Most of us find the answer specifically in the present, with a few nods toward our future. For example, I am a husband, a pastor, a father, a son, an American, a hopeful writer, a hopeless student, and so on. All of these things are specifically related to where I am. Other parts of my identity: Christian, Baptist, White Guy; are all part of what I am made of, whether genetic or spiritual.

I think, though, that part of who I am is missing in all of these descriptions. I know who I think I am today, and who I think I will be tomorrow. I know my own history, but what of my heritage? I know snippets and stories, but I treat those so often as if they are no different than the historical lessons of Ancient Rome or Lexington and Concord. Stories worth the knowing, but detached from a passionate embrace in my heart. Head power without an emotional connection.

What I don’t know so badly eclipses what I do know about where I have come from. There have been good and bad people in my heritage, but I am reluctant to consider how these have shaped me, even though I have not known them.

We are not chained to our history, but neither are we independent of it. None of us sprung unaided from the foam of the sea. How does it affect who we are now?

I am not saying that we are bound to those moments in our heritage, but what do we know? How does our story fit in the flow? One example from the weekend was being reminded, by way of seeing an old receipt of the days of the poll taxes that were used to suppress votes in many areas of the country. (Not just the South, by the way, New York, so leave us alone.)

Did you know that in many areas, the poll taxes were not just about suppressing minority votes but about poor folks in general? The goal, overall, was to find a way to keep power consolidated in the hands of wealthy and powerful. I found in a book on the coal mining towns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that the miners were often given the opportunity to pay the tax, but the mine company held on to the receipts “for safekeeping.”

Guess what happened when it came Election Day and the miners wanted to vote? If they weren’t suddenly needed to work overtime, past the polling hours, they had to find and obtain the receipt for taxes paid. If a man was known to not vote like the company wanted, his receipt might have been hard to find…

And guess what a few generations back of Hibbards did for a living?

They were coal miners. (Well, one was a horse thief, and many were preachers on the side. Including the horse thief, I think.)

Which means that our family benefited, and benefits, as much from the efforts to abolish poll taxes and other suppression efforts as anyone else did. It also shows that we are not heirs to fame and fortune, but rather heirs to something greater. Our heritage is of men and women who struggled at times to survive, and eventually overcame.

This should inform the efforts of myself and future generations, to stand for those who have no voice. To fight for the inalienable rights endowed by our Creator. Because one other thing I have learned about miners: they hate to leave anyone behind. Many of the safety rules about mine rescues originated because too many miners would die trying to rescue their fellow miners. Not by orders of management but out of loyalty to leave no one under that ground.

We do not leave anyone under that ground. We do not leave anyone oppressed and voiceless. We do not sit idly by and let others do the heavy lifting.

Even if the titles have changed, who we are, or at least who we ought to be, does not change.

Who are you? Why?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book: Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm of Canterbury by Simonetta Carr (hear from her here at this link) is the latest entry in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series. Prior entries have profiled John Calvin, Augustine of Hippo, Lady Jane Grey, and Athanasius, and more are planned. These are published by Reformation Heritage Books

I will open with this general observation: we fail to read enough biographies in our growth as Christians. I think there is a heartfelt desire to avoid the hagiographical style where our “heroes” did no wrong, and so we tend to avoid biographies in general. Alongside that, we fear elevating individuals too highly, but we would do well to remember that Anselm’s ego will not be overinflated, nor will Lady Jane Grey, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or many others. There is no real risk here, and we are the poorer for allowing modern denominational lines to block our view of history.

Now, let us move on to Anselm of Canterbury. Anselm falls into church history as a theologian of the eleventh century and is considered one of the founders of scholasticism, the effort originally geared toward defending the Christian faith on an intellectual basis. More than this, Anselm was heavily involved in the conflicts of his age between the English King and the Pope over the power within the church.

These conflicts are part of the heritage of the separation of church and state to this day: the King wanted to have the power over the church in his lands, and the Pope wanted the church independent. Anselm also fought to reform the church and even wrote against slavery.

Anselm of Canterbury, though, is a biography for younger readers, and so does not quite dig into all of these issues. There is an examination of Anselm’s childhood, including an interesting story about white bread. Carr also draws out some of Anselm’s experiences s a younger monk, establishing who he was before he became Doctor Magnificus of the Roman Catholic Church. Even then, though, he was groundbreaking. Page 21 shows how he used a tablet to record his ideas—he did have some printer-compatibility issues, though.

Carr’s storytelling style is excellent throughout. Even though I am aware that I am reading a children’s book, it is still engaging and challenging for an adult reader. My kids have enjoyed reading it, even not understanding all of the undercurrents of history about lay investiture or homage.

The story is compelling, and I think Carr handles the theological questions well enough for younger children to grasp. She does an excellent job being even-handed with her treatment of the structure of the Roman Catholic Church, neither fully endorsing it nor introducing unnecessary questions about the medieval church systems.

A separate word is necessary regarding Matt Abraxas’ illustrations. That word is excellent. Abraxas’ helps bring the story to life so well that I regret the space used for actual photographs in Anselm of Canterbury. Couldn’t they have had him just draw the object in the photo? (I do understand the reasoning, but his work is excellent here.)

Overall, Anselm of Canterbury hits the midline between simplifying the story enough for children and not dumbing the story down too much to have value. The “Did You Know?” section in the back is very helpful, filling out the details needed for the life of Anselm. Further, a few definite quotes from Anselm round the work out nicely.

I highly recommend this book for upper elementary and above.

Please Note: Cross-Focused Reviews tracked down a free copy of this book and gave it to me, on condition that I review it. No demand was made that I like it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Grace and Presence: Numbers 9

Picking up through the whole Bible, Numbers continues to belie its reputation as a dull book of just a census and presents more of the narrative during the Exodus. There is a two-part story in Numbers 9, the first regarding the Passover observance, the second demonstrating God’s approval of the Tabernacle.

Let’s break it down into those two parts.

First, the Passover. I think it is impossible to overstate the importance of the Passover in the Jewish Faith, and that goes all the way back to the Exodus and the night of their deliverance from slavery. You think Canada matters up north, eh? You think Fourth of July is a big deal in the USA? These days are set us up to understand how important the Passover was. Except you have to combine not only the national aspects but the religious ones. Imagine if Independence Day fell on Easter. You’re closer—but we’re not all Christians in the US.

However, because it was a religious holiday, there were specific ceremonial requirements for its observance. One of those was ceremonial cleanliness, which one could lose from being in the presence of someone who died. And people do not die on schedule or hold off past inconvenient times.This meant there were various people who found themselves unable to participate in the Passover—even though they had done nothing but go through normal life. Or, perhaps, they had deliberately been showing compassion to ailing individuals and had become ceremonially unclean.

Anyway that it happened, these were going to be excluded from the Passover. It was troubling to them that they could not take part, and so they asked why they should be left out?

Moses does the right thing here and seeks the Word of the YHWH (that’s what you have here, the Covenant Name of God) for these people. I particularly like his answer in Numbers 9:8:

“Wait, and I will listen to what YHWH will command concerning you.”

God’s response is gracious. Rather than rebuking the people for ending up unclean or give a list of extra sacrifices to perform, God gives them an alternate date for the Passover. It is set for a month later, and they are to observe the Passover in its fullness. This also applies to an individual who is on a distant journey, allowing for the possibility of worship among the people rather than alone on the road.

There is a big “however,” though. It is this: the one who simply skips the Passover? He is to be cast out from the community. End of story for him, for he has willfully rejected what God has granted in grace. The epitaph is frightening: “He will bear his sin.”

Practically speaking, the grace of God is marvelous, glorious, excessive, and not to be treated casually. The grace of God is enough for all and the heart that has known grace will strive to follow as best possible. It is the selfish heart that is incompatible, but there is grace even for that.

Moving to the second half of the chapter, we see God’s acceptance of the Tabernacle. How do we know it is accepted?

The Glory of God descends on the Tabernacle to the point that no one could miss His presence. When the cloud of fire would rise up, the people would pack and follow, and when the cloud stopped, there they stopped.

This picture shows us the beauty of the grace of God. He remains with His people and they follow Him. His presence, in itself, is enough to stay in one place or to chase off across the wilderness.

Do we see His grace and presence the same way?

Nerd Note: Take a look back at the calendar allowance on the Passover. What do you think this says about “individual worship” or “solo Communion” if we assume that God is the same God now that He was then?

Sermon Recap for September 20

Good evening! We had some major technical difficulties this week, so we don’t have the music part of the service, and you get the video from...