Monday, September 30, 2013

Sermon Wrap-up for September 29

Good morning!

Here are the sermons from yesterday. We spent our time on Deborah and Jael, so here’s the links and information:

Morning Sermon Audio Link

Morning Video

Morning Outline

September 29, 2013  AM Judges 4 Go with Me

Who do you need?

Who needs you?

Who do you answer to?

Who will you support?

Presentation Outline:

I. Historical Situation--Relationship with the Canaanites, oppression, chariots!

     A. Note: after Ehud--as if Shamgar just wasn't much to discuss

     B. Generational shifts: one underlying message of Judges is the crucial, crucial task of transmitting a living faith to the next generation

II. Personalities on the ground:

     A. Deborah  (She gets a tree!) //Nerd Excursus: reflects, most likely, the use of a fairly contemporary source for Judges, because the Tree is still remembered or known

          Non-sermonic excursus: Identity of "Lappidoth," especially in light of potential translation of "woman" in place of "wife" and "torches or shining objects" for "Lappidoth" (Lappidoth could be a name, could be plural of a Hebrew root)

     B. Barak

     C. Sisera

     D. Jabin -- note that he escapes, effectively unscathed. The real villain may not be defeated

III. God speaks:

     A. Through Deborah

     B. To Barak

 

IV. God does:

     A. Provides Victory

     B. Frees the people

V. We hear:

     A. A good story? This is more than that

     B. About obedience and courage: Barak should have been willing to go forward in obedience.

     C. About leadership: Deborah was the God-appointed leader at the time and place--

     D. About: Encouragement and support.

               1. We are often Barak

               2. We are in need of people to be Deborah

               3. Focus on what you can do--why stress about the chariots?

               4. Be there for others

               5. Take the risk with your life as well--

Evening Sermon Audio Link

Evening Video

Evening Outline

Judges 4:17-22 Nailing Your Allegiance

Families

Nations

Individuals

Where does your allegiance lie?

Are you willing to put a nail hard down on who you serve?

The decision comes at strange and unexpected times.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book: Apostate

There are times that, as a book reviewer, I get a book that I am obligated to review but really just don’t want to. I understand the work the author has put in, I know negativity isn’t really needed, and I would rather let those who praise a work speak on their own. However, each book comes with an obligation to review it, good or bad.

Today’s book is Apostate: The Men who Destroyed the Christian West. Kevin Swanson is the author, and the book is published by Generations with Vision. It represents a hardcover presentation of the basis of the overall ministry work Swanson does through Generations with Vision.

I have a divided response to this book. First, let me give you the positives:

Swanson is refreshingly direct in his writing style. It is certainly easy to take this directness as harshness, but I recognize the approach. Apostate is not addressing the potential for disaster. Apostate is responding to imminent, happening disaster. If I were in your home recommending smoke detectors, I would use a different tone than if I were in your home and the kitchen was on fire. Swanson’s writing style is clear: the kitchen has already burned, and the living room is next.

Further, Apostate is clearly well-researched. Swanson walks the reader through the underlying philosophies of many of those held by our current system as great people. From literary giants like Shakespeare (the only fiction mandated in the Common Core standards) to Mark Twain; philosophers like Emerson to Marx to Nietzsche; scientists like Darwin; and so on, the reader finds that there are legitimate questions that need asked and discussed. The foundations of the modern public education system, based on John Dewey’s work, are specifically addressed.

All of these, and select others, are highlighted for the damage their work has done to a culture that Swanson sees as having once been Christian in its existence. Even philosopher Rene Descartes, who is counted part of the Christian philosophical heritage, is brought to task for corrupting what had been a good, faithful society.

It is here that I find Apostate to be lacking. Overall, while Swanson has accurately portrayed the fundamental flaws in the arguments and individuals presented in his book, he has not been faithful to history. His preface idealizes 475-1200 AD as seeing Christian thinking dominate the West, while a cursory read of Christian History will point out the flaws and failings within the church itself during those years.

Those years saw oppressive kings, corrupt religious leaders, and a decided bent against basic ideas like sanitation. While the creep of humanism does occur, one should hardly pine for kings who commanded life and death and based their authority on a claim of divine right. Reading through Apostate’s preface I could not help but wonder whether Swanson longed to be the serf or the knight in the feudal system. Or if he would have gladly followed Urban II’s call to Jerusalem.

I would suggest that true Christianity has never been a dominant worldview, and actually awaits the Second Coming to truly be an earthly-visible kingdom. There was a heyday where political power and church power were merged, but to assume that this was equal to a universal following of Christianity is wishful thinking at best. I find it hard to believe that Swanson actually would accept living in a world where one man was deemed the final authority for all matters, both spiritual and temporal. This was the “Christian West” of 800-1200.

This is not to say that there was not a strong Christian influence, nor to say that a world where a Biblical Christian influence was celebrated and strong would be bad. I would dearly love to see such a world, where the Word of God guides all through the power of the Spirit and people live in freedom to follow Christ.

It is also certainly true that many of the personalities detailed in Apostate prepared, presented, and perpetuated philosophies that are antithetical to Christianity. Absolutely, one cannot hold both Nietzche and Jesus as right. One or the other must be chosen.

I cannot bring myself, though, to blame Dewey and Darwin, Hawthorne and Sartre, for the declining influence of Christianity in the Western World. It is not the fault of any of the individuals in Apostate that the church and the churches have failed to engage the world with the Gospel. Hawthorne, for example, expressed his bitterness toward Christianity because of the abuse of power he had seen. Emerson saw no good in Christianity that was not present in naturalistic religions.

That falls on believers. The continued problem falls on believers. It is not the fault of atheistic school systems that the children of the church do not embrace the faith. It is our own fault for not teaching the faith. It is our own fault for not living the faith.

In the end, Apostate starts from the wrong assumption, processes valid information, but then pinpoints a mistaken conclusion. The ideas he presents as solutions are valuable, but must be taken in moderation given the uncertainty of where Swanson hopes we come out.

I received a free copy of Apostate from Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for the review.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sacred Cow: Numbers 19

Sacred cow. A sacred cow is something that has become holy, untouchable with no valid reason. There is a place for sacred cows.

The grill.

So, what do we do with the ordinance of the red heifer in Numbers 19? Is it a sacred cow to be grilled or something valuable to study?

The red heifer instructions are one of those weird spots in Old Testament Law. These specifications for an animal that you are going to burn and mix the ashes with purification water are very intense. They also leave a lot of questions that are not easily answered.

One question that I have is this: is the ordinance of the red heifer something that was done once or occasionally? Did this happen once and then they just passed on what was left, mixing in new oil/water/spices and claim connection to the heifer, or did they keep a herd specifically for this purpose? The Jewish traditions record it as a rare event, occurring fewer than ten times.

These details could consume us or drive us to ignore the text. I think another detail would be to obsess over what was a “red heifer.” This could be a specific breed, but more likely this description looks like an animal that would be a rarely, naturally occurring animal. That appears to be the more likely case.

Without doing all the research that would go into a book, I would guess that there were traditions that a red heifer showed up just about the time one was needed. This could have been the case, but we do not have any Scripture to back that up. What we do have is Scripture that details very specific ceremony. As with much of the Pentateuch, those instructions were not meant to be taken lightly, but followed to the letter.

What does it do?

Personally, I think this is a ceremony that is intended to meet superstition head-on. It is a Law given by God for two reasons. The first is this: rare, natural phenomena take on mythical status. Think about how we treat a four-leaf clover or talk about blue lobsters, white stags, giant catfish. These almost become objects of veneration, even in modern times.

Ancient times were often more likely to go that route than we are. God blunts that superstition: even a mythical creature is simply a part of the sacrificial system. And what is the sacrificial system? An intricate pattern of worship designed to remind the Israelites of the holiness of God and their dependence on Him. So, the red heifer is clearly placed as part of that system rather than becoming a good-luck charm.

The second reason is closely related: the purification rituals of the Old Testament were intended to show just how difficult it was to atone for sin. The requirement of a spotless, rare animal to even begin the system would have shown the people that sin was not something to be taken lightly. It would have perhaps been a little intimidating: if we screw this up, when will we get another cow?

In all, this is the major point to take note of: sin is serious, and it cannot be simply ignored. For the believer in Christ, chapters like the red heifer instructions remind us of the sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross. Rather than needing to find the right cow, we need to find the right Savior.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings: Joshua 8

What was a classic pick-up line in Israel? “So, you’re from Ai? How do spell that?”

This worked as well as modern pick-up lines do.

Moving on…Joshua 8 addresses the conquest of Ai after the failure at Ai. The contrast here is mainly seen as God at work in the obedient after seeing God’s refusal to bless the people due to Achan’s sin.

That’s a valid lesson. God honors obedience and judges sin. I think it’s a little simplistic to then apply this over and claim that the obedient always have things go right. That is not supported in the rest of Scripture.

There is also this: the original attempt to capture Ai involved a certain disinterest from the people. Just a few were needed, the spies said, so just a few went.

God’s work by His people is never a matter for just a few.

Also worth noting is the use of the strategy of ambush at Ai. Not because Ambush is a new concept. Because God uses the situation to turn what the people of Ai thought was the weakness of His people into the Israelite’s victory.

Give your failures to God. Let Him use those. It may require a vulnerability that you are thoroughly uncomfortable with, but it’s a necessity.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Disunited for Jesus: John 7

Unity. This one word sums up what many people think should be the goal of humanity in general and church-people in particular. If you want to expand the term, it would be unity without judgment. There is a pressure to develop a unity that is founded in just getting along with everyone everywhere every time.

To advance this as Christian ideal, though, is to skip John 7. First, we need to get there. Jesus has been teaching in Jerusalem in the days surrounding the Feast of Tabernacles. This was a time to remember the Exodus and the time when the people of Israel, on their way out of Egypt, dwelt in tents.

This specific chapter occurs after Jesus has fed the 5,000 and done many miracles. John’s Gospel records specific signs of Jesus’ status as Messiah, and those are half-done at this point. During this time, there is an argument among the people and the religious leadership about who Jesus is.

Not about whether or not his name is Jesus or whether he grew up in Nazareth, but whether his identity is deeper than those simple concepts. Jesus, rather than trying to soothe the divisions, actually pushes deeper into them. He highlights that the Jewish law of the time required religious ceremony to be upheld on the Sabbath while He was being criticized for healing on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ words on the matter? Judge, but judge righteously. Judge according to God’s standards.

This does nothing to still the division. Some continue to follow Jesus, while others determine that the time has come to silence Him. There is even a division between the Pharisees, the chief priests, and their own guards. The guards refuse to arrest Jesus, saying He has done nothing wrong. The religious leaders insist that He has.

It is, truly, just a mess.

Why?

It is not a mess because people were trying to judge who Jesus was. In fact, He encourages them to do so. He simply insisted that the judgment be based on righteousness and not selfishness. He does not appeal that they all be unified as Jews or as anti-Romans. He instead leaves the crowd divided. He leave Nicodemus to face the Pharisees and the crowd condemned by those same Pharisees.

Why?

(Frequent question in Scripture study, honestly.)

Because the highest ideal of Christianity is not simply unity. It is unity with Jesus. It is not our goal as Christian people to be at peace with just anyone. It is our requirement that we be at peace with the Lord Jesus Christ. End of story.

Any others who are at peace with Jesus are then, automatically, at peace with us. Those who are opposed to Him? Well, if they want information, we are there to share it. If they have needs, we are there to meet them. Why? Because we are all unified with Christ, and so He does those things through us.

If those who are detached are just out to attack Jesus? Well, then they will attack us. And we will deal with it, going to the cross when it is our time

Division is a natural part of the human experience, and a natural part of the Christian experience. Your faith, hope, and love are not shown by having unity with all people at all times. These are shown by how you handle the lack of unity.

What do you do to bring others into unity with Christ? Because you will accomplish no such thing by anger, irritation, or bitterness. So take the necessary steps.

Today’s Nerd Note: Much has been discussed regarding John 7:8-10, where Jesus tells His brothers that He will go the Feast, and then He goes.

So, He lied?

Well, He told them that He would not do something and then He did it. Either that or He meant something else by not “going up.” It is frequently posited that He meant He would not go in entourage, with big publicity. This may be accurate, but I’m uncertain. Another suggestion is that He changed His plan.

Another interesting factor from this early part of the chapter is how His brothers are not believing in Him, and are basically taunting Him to go have a confrontation with the religious leaders.

I think there is a connection here. Jesus is not going up for that purpose. He goes to the Feast but not to force the confrontation. That comes later, at a specific Passover. This is just one of the places where you need to read and think, not just gloss through it. People outside of the faith will do that. Those within must not.

Monday, September 23, 2013

September 23 2013

I like the NASB’s chapter heading: On Life and Conduct. This is, however, a tad generic. After all, most of Scripture is on life and conduct. Still, as a summation of this chapter, it’s a good one.

 

Focal verses:

 

Proverbs 23:9 is interesting to contemplate in today’s culture. It certainly befits us all to avoid sharing secrets in the presence of the fool, but there is more here than that. It’s the idea of teaching or trying to enlighten others with fools present. The challenge for today is that we often try to teach through blogs or social media, where any idiot can see it and respond as they choose. It is important to recognize fool-responses and try to just ignore them.

 

That is not to support ignoring legitimate questions or contrary views. Take politics: someone that wants to discuss healthcare by working through the benefits of bigger regulation should be willing to talk the merits of less regulation. Those who only want to demand either socialized, single-payer or who want to insist that a completely deregulated free market system are the only ways to go, and think shouting louder is discussion, these are acting foolishly.

 

Proverbs 23:19 connects wisdom with walking in “the way.” Two thoughts: first, it’s a definite way. Not any of the good ways of which there are a plentitude, because there is only the way. The second thought is a stretch, exegetically. That is, if you turned this in on an assignment in class, it’s going to be less than perfect. The first term in Acts for those who follow Christ, after “disciples,” is “The Way.” Acts 9:2 tells us Saul was after those who followed the Way. What does wisdom do? It follows the Way.

 

You can draw that connection. I think it’s a decent one.

 

Proverbs 23:29 gives a list of rhetorical questions, all answered in Proverbs 23:30. This is about those who abuse alcohol. Wisdom avoids the abuse of intoxicants. Wisdom avoids the abuse of anything, really.

Sermon Wrap-Up for September 22

Good Monday to you all. Here are the sermon wrap-ups from yesterday:

Morning Sermon Audio is linked here

September 22 AM Judges 3: No Useless Servants

I. Situation

II. People involved

A. Lesser relatives

B. Social rejects

C.  Obscure workers

III. You

IV.  Do what is available to you

V. Stop waiting for someone else more able.

 

Evening Sermon Audio is linked here

September 22 PM John 6:10 "Have a Seat"

1. Location

2. Event

3. Specific point

4. How do you need to sit down?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Book: The NIV Integrated Study Bible

The NIV Integrated Study Bible(NIVISB) is, in all honesty, not what I expected from the title. Taking in the tagline of “A new chronological approach for exploring Scripture” helps a bit with the expectations, so do not judge a book by its title. Not if you can get the full description from a website, that is.

First of all, living in the 21st century southern United States, the word “integrated” is freighted with meaning regarding race relations. I know that “integrated” can refer to mixing anything that has been separate, but the connotation around here would lead one to believe this Bible attempts to draw together scholarly viewpoints on Scripture from multiple ethnic traditions. That is unfortunately not the case—not because this one is bad, but because that would be a great idea.

Instead, the word “integrated” here refers to harmonizing the various portions of Scripture into their chronological order. Which is fine, and and it needed a new title because there are already “Chronological Bibles” on the market. I think the title comes from a different region of the country is all—so balance your expectations.

Second, on to the chronological efforts here. I like what the NIVISB does with parallel passages. Rather than repeat these passages, they are actually placed in parallel columns on the same page. For example, John 6 shares a two-page spread with Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9, all telling the same story. Likewise, in places where Chronicles and Kings tell the same story , these are placed in parallel.

Also, the book of Acts is a bit interrupted, as the epistles of Paul and James are slotted where the editors think they belong. Those timings are, of course, open to interpretation.

An additional aspect, which I think is the best feature, is the use of what the editors have labeled “conceptual parallels.” Two examples should suffice: Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 both provide the Ten Commandments, but at different stages in Israel’s history. These passages are placed in parallel in both locations, providing the reader a reminder or a foretaste, depending on the perspective. Also, Jesus’ cleansing the Temple is marked as a conceptual parallel between the First Cleansing in John and the Passion Week Cleansing in the Synoptics. (This leaves aside the debate about that chronology.)

The chronology is, overall, good. There is a timeline across the bottom of every page, showing where in the calendar most of the events occurring should fit, and providing a perspective on the scope of history.

The drawback I find is that, in comparison with other “study” Bibles, there is just not that much “study” material here. There are no book-level introductions or backgrounds, and there are no deeper points on any verses. There are six section introductions covering the major divisions of Scripture through history. (Think time-frames, not literary genres.) That is, however, the whole of the material that fits the idea of “study” within the NIVISB.

One quirk in those introductions is that the section for the Exodus and Conquest seems to favor a late date, while the timeline on the pages favors the early date. Not a real problem, just a quirk to my eyes.

Now, all of this leaves aside any discussion of the NIV text. I prefer the New American Standard for Biblical text, and I would still commend the NASB over any other translation on the market in the English-speaking world. Close behind it are the ESV and NLT, based on true reading levels. The NIV was once my favorite, but it is not any longer at the top of the list. That being said, many decent study tools are built on the NIV—either the 1984 or the 2011, depending on release date. I consider the NIV an acceptable translation, just like the HCSB or the KJV are, but not tops on my list.

If you want to have a good discussion on these issues, there are some good books and articles on the idea. I would caution against just googling it, because you’ll get a lot of rhetoric that is unsubstantiated. However, it’s your time and if you want to sift, go ahead. Keep in mind that anything published by Crossway will favor the ESV and its philosophy while anything from Zondervan will favor NIV.

I like the layout of the The NIV Integrated Study Bible. I would love to have seen a little more “study” material to make it a self-contained Study Bible, but that’s ok. I would deeply love to see the same layout in NASB.

Note: Free book from Booksneeze in exchange for the review.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Obligation before Privilege: Numbers 18

As we continue through the whole Bible, we return to the Old Testament. Carrying on in the book of Numbers and reaching Numbers 18, we find Aaron, the Levites, and the priests addressed in this chapter. It is important to note that there is a distinction between Aaron and the Levites, and between the Levites and the priests. Though all of these served at the sanctuary, they are not entirely interchangeable.

The chapter opens with a summation of the responsibilities shared by all three of these groups: Aaron and his sons; the Levites; the priests. Fundamentally, the obligations expressed here about protecting the worship space of Israel. The religious leadership in these people was responsible to make sure the Tabernacle was taken care of, the rules were followed, and the guilt of Israel atoned for through sacrifices.

This was a heavy responsibility. It was one that could not be handed off: Numbers 18:7 speaks of the hereditary nature of being a leading priest. Outsiders could not come in. I would suggest that this is more about preventing hiring out the work than it is about preventing others from joining. That is not abundantly clear in Scripture, though. A good research project on that subject would need to explore the practices outside of Israel and remember that much of the Mosaic Religious Law was about separating Israel’s practices from their neighbor’s habits.

This responsibility was great enough that the nation depended on the work of these few. There was no substitute for Levites, the priests, or the Aaronic line.

After the obligations are spelled out, then the privileges are listed. Much of the rest of the chapter details how the Levites, priests, and Aaronic line are compensated for their work. Many of them will eat from the everyday labor of their fellow Israelites. While the priests are mending fabrics or arranging lampstands, their countrymen will be herding sheep or growing crops.

In all honesty, theirs is a call to a life of privilege. Even though there will be daily tasks and a level of monotony, the everyday work of a priest was not nearly the challenge of the life of the people. The Levite spent his time close to the holy, so that he could then be part of the visible reminder of God’s presence to the people.

Yet the privilege follows the obligations. It is not for the Levites or Aaron or the priests to gain the compensation first. They are to fulfill the responsibilities of the office. They do the work, and because they do the work, the privileges follow. It cannot come in the reverse order.

Why not?

The chapter closes with a verse that reminds us why not. The last phrase of Numbers 18:32 warns the religious leadership that if they profane the gifts of the sons of Israel, they will die.

Not, they will be replaced or they will be shamed. They will die. As in, door-knocker dead. This should keep them reminded of their purpose. This should keep them focused on what matters, serving YHWH, God of Israel and serving His people.

Because anything else is death.

We don’t quite take things that seriously, do we? Perhaps we should. Integrity in religious leadership is a matter of life and death. Failing to hold leadership to the proper standards is dangerous for the spiritual life and well-being of everyone. Take the obligations of leadership seriously. God does.

Today’s Nerd Note: Nerd note is slow because Logos Bible Software is misbehaving on my PC. Oh, there it is: There is a reference here to the idea of a “covenant of salt” in the priesthood. There is no real description of what that means, and people have made varied guesses of late to explain it.

The best I can find is the idea of salt as preservative and flavor-developer, as well as medicinal and life-sustaining. The priests are given to the people for those purposes.

Kind of like another group of people…Matthew 5:13, perhaps?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday Wonderings: Joshua 7

I take seminary classes with people that talk about having dozens of people in church with nothing to do, or having people that want to teach/lead/help but no opportunities. We don’t really have that problem in Almyra. Most of the folks willing to work are working as much as they are able, though there are always exceptions.

The end-result of this is that I am now teaching kids on Wednesday nights as part of our Stampede. I teach them for about 15 minutes, at which point their attention spans, my patience, and a large roll of duck tape (or a case, as here) are about to meet. The kids then move on to more active-learning segments and also do music and worship arts classes.

I go back to the kitchen where I belong.

However, about an hour later, I turn around and teach adults. And I have reached a conclusion: I’m going to teach the grown-ups what the kids are learning. Why?

Because it won’t hurt them to be reminded. And I need a blog-filler for Wednesdays, and I bet that not more than one of you who reads this will be here tonight, so it will be good for you, too. Plus, this has the effect for me of writing out the lesson which prepares me to teach better.

Overall, these will not be fully cohesive notes, rather just a smattering of ideas.

Tonight, we are looking at Joshua 7. The question at stake is How does God feel about sin? The follow-on from this is What is the penalty for sin? Who pays it?

The Biblical story centers around the disobedience of Achan at Jericho. We may spend some time with the adults discussing the moral implications of devoting the entire city to destruction, but I don’t think we can have that discussion with 5 year olds.

Achan kept some of what was to be destroyed. I think it’s worth noting that he kept stuff. He didn’t save a single person. He kept stuff. This speaks to a hardness in his heart.

We saw with the Rahab narrative in Joshua 2 that there was an escape option for the people of Jericho. The warfare traditions of the time would have led the people of Jericho to expect total destruction if they lost, and those who wanted to live knew they had to flee…or win. Yet Rahab’s testimony is that they knew who they were dealing with.

Achan’s sin affects everyone. That’s worth noting: sin affects the innocent. The sinner must be dealt with to restore the innocent. And there were 36 lives lost that could not be restored in any capacity. Sinners destroy lives that aren’t theirs.

Further, there is the statement to Joshua to quit crying about the problem and fix the sin. That’s important too.

Proverbs 18: September 2013

Proverbs 18 mentions the speech of an individual a great deal. Keep in mind as you encounter this that the words which come out reflect what is inside. That is why the words matter: Solomon is not saying to get the words right. He is saying be right so that the words follow.

 

Proverbs 18:9 would be a great one to post at work. The one who is a slacker, who does not do what should be done? They are related to the one who just goes about destroying. That course you just kind of punted, that work day you did nothing and coasted on someone else? That’s right beside destruction. Probably shouldn’t do that, should we?

 

Proverbs 18:19 falls on the list of “Proverbs for Blogging” that we Christians ought to be well aware of. Arguments among brothers, sisters, close companions can be deadly to a relationship, and when that hits, it is hard to restore. How hard?

 

It’ll take a miracle.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fourth-Telling is Important: John 6

We come back to the Gospel of John as we work through the whole Bible. John 6 gives us the feeding of the 5,000, the walking on water, and several discourse passages where Jesus teaches the people.

If I were writing a commentary, I would spend many thousands of words here. Instead, though, it’s a blog. So, you get a little bit and then will have to dig the rest out for yourself. I will highlight one major sweep of the passage:

There are at least 5,000 adult men with Jesus at the beginning of the passage. This is quite the crowd. They are watching the signs and hearing His Word, not as we do from the page but directly from His mouth. Yet by the end of the passage, Jesus looks at the Twelve and asks if they are going to go away also. Peter’s response is hardly enthusiastic to my ears: “To whom shall we go?” It sounds almost like they would leave, but they know Jesus is the Messiah. They may not like the hard things about following Him, but there is no other option.

In that, I think many of us ought to be close to the same way. We hold to the faith not because it is temporarily beneficial. Not for the easy teachings. Not for the happy sermons. We hold to the faith because there is truly no where else to go. There is nothing else for me: if God has not spoken truly through the Word, if I am not redeemed in Christ, then I have nothing. I do not have to have tried everything to know this, but I know that there is one right path and it is to follow Jesus.

Now, on to a little focus in this passage: the Feeding of the 5,000 is considered important for more than one reason. Obviously, the story itself bears importance for demonstrating the power of Christ over the physical world. There is the obvious value in teaching that we bring what we have and God uses it. We should note that few people would have looked to a young kid to provide the first step in the solution.

Yet that is not what I would highlight at this point. I would, instead, draw your attention to one of the quirks of New Testament studies. We find that there are great similarities between Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These three are often called the Synoptic Gospels, meaning that they see the life of Jesus through almost the same eye. (If I am recalling correctly, syn meaning something like “together” and optic meaning something like “appearance” or even “eye.” These are seen together Gospels.)

Then, there is the Gospel of John. John sees things very differently. Now, I hold that this is because John wrote after Matthew, Mark, and Luke were in circulation and John wrote with an intention toward filling gaps in either events or meaning that the Synoptics left unsaid. There is debate about how to characterize the percentage of difference between John and the Synoptics, but until you hit the Passion Week, the week of the Crucifixion, there are no miracle narratives recorded in both the Synoptics and John.

Except this one. This event is recorded in all four Gospels. Further, all four carry some variations, indicating that they are not merely copying each other but including their own knowledge and understanding of the event.

Let us dwell on this for a moment: if the Bible contains exactly what God intended it to contain, has truth without any mixture of error, and is the complete Word of God, then there is a reason that this story shows up four times. It is apparently important. Very important.

Think about it. If you have a job, your boss repeats important things. If you are the boss, you repeat important things. In life, this is true, otherwise, why put signs in the bathrooms to tell employees to wash their hands? It’s important enough to remember.

The question is not if the feeding of the 5,000 is important. The question is why?

Here is why:

1. Jesus shows compassion. The hungry people have needs, those needs are met by His hand.

2. The story shows His power. Five loaves leads to twelve baskets of leftovers, so that the disciples have snacks for the week? Only God can do this.

3. Jesus subtly rebukes Satan here. What was one of the temptations of Christ? To make bread. Here Jesus makes bread for the right reasons. That’s right, the tempter gets reminded here that he did not box out the power of God.

4. Jesus reveals His true purpose. It is not to rule over mankind without first atoning for sin and going to the Cross. John 6:15 points out that the people were ready to revolt with Jesus at the head of them.

Instead, He backs down, preaches the hard truths, and drives many followers away. Because His goal is not a revolution of government but a surrender of mankind to Himself, the One who vanquishes sin and death.

This is important enough to tell us four times, which is more than we are told about Jesus’ birth. Or about certain aspects of the Cross. Or Creation, or Paul’s journeys, or even the Second Coming. Keep that in mind: some truths really are more worth repeating.

Today’s Nerd Note: John 6:49-58 is sometimes used to justify a belief that the practice of taking Communion or the Eucharist is mandated for salvation. This is, however, stretching the point. First of all, the elements of Communion remain what they were: bread and the fruit of the vine. If it is necessary to eat the actual body of Christ, this would make Communion pointless.

Second, taking this as actually eating the flesh of Christ slides toward a pagan view rather than a Christian one. It is necessary to understand figures of speech as figures of speech, even if one is taking the text “literally.” Here is no different: Jesus is referring to complete dependence on Him, not to literally eating Him.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up for September 15

Here are the audio and video links from Sunday Morning’s sermon. There’s no recording of Sunday Night.

Audio is here

Or, alternately, here:

 

 

Video:

Outline:

September 15 AM Judges 2

Judges 2:6-13

I. Remembering the Lord God

II. Serving the Lord God

III. Forgetting the Lord God

IV. Forsaking the Lord God

V. Repenting and Returning to the Lord God

Actions:

1. Do it.

2. Teach it.

3. Fund it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Book: Finally Free

Today’s Book was provided by Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. If Shaun thinks my review is dishonest, he comes to my house and smacks me with the book before he takes it away. If I ever review a hardcover, that review will be so honest that Abe Lincoln will marvel. Smile

Pornography is major issue among Christians today. I will admit to knowing quite a few people that have struggled with this, and also point to this reality: porn exists because people support it. We can fume about the ‘industry’ all day long, the ready availability on the Internet all we want, but consumers stopped paying to see people participate in sexual activity, then it wouldn’t be there.

And the reality is, there are far too many of us who claim to walk with God that support pornography. At the core of this is our addiction to evil. Some people cannot see the attraction to pornography, and then return to another sin that they cannot shake. It’s not about the porn, really, it is truly about being hooked on sin.

Onto this stage comes Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert. This is a short read, addressing eight major strategies for fighting away from pornography in your life.

The opening and closing chapters, though, are the most valuable. Lambert’s basis in Finally Free is that of God’s grace. We can fight sin, of any kind, by the power of God’s grace. Lusting after pornography certainly fits that category.

Some of Lambert’s concepts are not new here. Most of us have heard that accountability partners, blocking software, and honesty with our spouses will help fight pornography. These tools are valuable and should not be neglected. Finally Free touches on these and others.

I do find Finally Free to be over-focused on married men. Information shows that women also struggle with pornography, and single folks have temptations too. Unfortunately, the bulk of the suggestions for the single person seem to hinge on how porn will affect their marriage later, rather than how to deal with it as they are. This also leads to an undercurrent of seeing marriage as something to enter into just to avoid sexual sin, when that is not the best approach to marriage.

In all, Finally Free is a useful little book, but I think its applicability is a little more limited than intended. The content is straightforward, which is helpful. I would hesitate, though, to push it as a must-read. Not due to any errors but simply due to what feels like a lopsided look at the problem.

Summary? 3 stars. I’m not sure there’s anything better on the market, but I’m not convinced this one fills the hole, either.

Free book provided by publisher in exchange for review.

Proverbs 13: September 2013

Look! It’s 9:13 on 9/13/13. That means…absolutely nothing.

 

Proverbs 13:9 should be read seeing the contrast between a natural “light” for the righteous and an artificial “lamp” for the wicked. One is lasting—Let there be light!—while the other requires fuel and eventually will give out.

 

Proverbs 13:19 feels disjointed, but one thing to contemplate: the righteous have their desire realized, but the wicked just keep doing evil. The righteous follow God and settle in, while the wicked do no such thing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Buds! Numbers 17

I have to admit, much of the current section of Numbers relates to leadership and rebellion in the time of the Exodus. Numbers 17 is no different on that front: there is a rebellion, this time against Aaron. God nips it, in the bud, with a bud.

The story is simple: after the previous rebellions and to address the undercurrent of rebelliousness, God commands that each tribe furnish a staff. (Or a rod, basically a piece of dead wood, shaped and smoothed.) They are to engrave names on each rod for each tribe, and then place these in front of the Ark of the Covenant. The next day, the dead wood that is Aaron’s rod has bloomed, demonstrating God’s choice of Aaron to head the Levites and the Levites to lead Israel.

We end with the fear of the other tribes to come too near the Tabernacle, because they fear death. The problem, however, is not their proximity. It is, in fact, their rebellion. God commands Aaron to leave his staff at the Tabernacle to be a constant reminder of God’s choice.

At this point we can make two errors, and they are similar to the typical two errors of Christians studying the Old Testament. The first is to cast it completely aside as if it’s only history. The second is to make our current situation perfectly analogous to the narrative and follow it to the letter.

Let us dispense with the first error: God preserved the Old Testament for us for a reason. It is not just informative, there are principles here worth noting and applying. We see here good principles: that God appoints leaders for His people; that God’s presence can be intimidating; we ought to remember how God has worked through people and supported people.

In these areas, we should recognize the truth: God does utilize people to lead His work in this world. We do not have people who are as blatantly called-out as Aaron and Moses in these days, rather we have people who clearly meet the New Testament model for leadership. We also should understand that it is only safe to draw near to God if our sins are forgiven through Christ. And it is valuable to note what God has done: history and theology belong together.

When we look at the second error, we need to be even more careful. Many of the Old Testament lessons that might be lost to the first error are repeated in the New Testament, so it is our loss to commit the first error but it may not be destructive. Committing the second error, though, can be highly dangerous.

Take a look at this scenario: a person claims to be the leader of a Christian organization. Could be a school, a church, a ministry, a blog. That person then demands that, as God-anointed leader, they receive no criticism at all. They then offer various proofs of their leadership. Unlike Aaron’s rod, though, these are open to interpretation. The so-called leader claims these as proofs, though, and one must either accept him or get out.

This is a dangerous road to go down. The only source of authority in the Christian church is the Word of God, and anyone who pushes people to disdain that for his own leadership is a wolf. Or at least on his way to wolf-dom, though he may come back. We need to be very careful: the Church is not Exodus Israel. It is possible for people to follow the Lord Jesus Christ through the wilderness without following one specific man.

That was not the case for Israel. They had to unify behind Moses and Aaron, or they would have met disaster. There are times, perhaps, that individual churches are in similar states, but this is not the overall case.

Learn the lesson that is here: God has a call on your life to do something. Get to it, rather than grumping that His call on you is not to do what the other guy does.

Today’s Nerd Note:

The Rod of Aaron goes into the Ark of the Covenant. I don’t know what happens to it in the long run. The Rod or the Ark. I’d love to find either one Smile

Proverbs 12: September 2013

Proverbs 12:9 is a little muddled to me. I do find a couple of commentaries in my Logos Bible Software that agree that it’s a bit muddled. The main view appears to be this: better to have a small reputation and be independent than to be famous and starve. It’s not about being wrongly esteemed, but about being less than famous. There is the possibility of a vowel redistribution, as in a few other Hebrew places, which would make this Proverb reflect that it is better to work for yourself, to be your own servant.

 

Either way, I think we can apply this to the idea of not trying to live large and get famous. It’s better to do what you do, and let fame happen if it does.

 

Proverbs 12:19 comes again to honesty and integrity. By now, and we’re not even halfway through Proverbs, we should all know that honesty is better. Lies do not last. End of story.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book: The One Year Holy Land Moments Devotional

Yikes, but that’s a long title.
The One Year Holy Land Moments Devotional from Tyndale Momentum is a compilation from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s Holy Land Moments radio program. These devotional moments are then commented on by Tremper Longman III, a Biblical Studies professor. It is an intriguing collaboration between a teacher of the Jewish faith and a teacher of the Christian faith.
I came to this with a measure of doubt. There is a pretty big gulf in belief between modern Judaism and modern Christianity. While there is much we as Christians should learn, there is just an undercurrent of divergence in our understanding. The shared heritage of the Pentateuch, Prophets, and Writings is valuable, but how well will this work?
An additional concern was whether or not Longman’s contributions would integrate well with Rabbi Eckstein’s. Would the Christian insight flow well with the Rabbinical statements?
The results overall are good. Rabbi Eckstein’s focus is on the Jewish concepts and rabbinical understandings of what we as Christians would call Old Testament passages. This includes providing clearer pictures of holy days such as Rosh Hoshannah and Yom Kippur. These insights are helpful, and Longman’s paragraph to connect to Christian views flows well throughout.
The devotional book is written with six entries per week, with a seventh day for reflection. The reading is easy, and the questions posed are worth the time. If you are looking for a new devotional book for the next year, this one is worth a try.
Note: Free book in exchange for the review.

Proverbs 11: September 2013

It is hard to post on September 11 without making note of the day. This is not a happy day in memory for most Americans. Do not forget.

 

Proverbs 11:9 has two seemingly disconnected statements, but both reflect on the use of words. Further, there is a connection up to 11:6 and down to 11:12. There is power in words: power to destroy our neighbor and power to spread knowledge that helps. Pick one.

 

Proverbs 11:19 is fulfilled on an eternal scale rather than one we can measure. There are frequent anecdotes that illustrate this in the near-term, but then there are exceptions. Certainly the Christian view sees that the only righteousness which will truly attain life is the righteousness of Jesus, imputed to believers. That does not excuse us from some actions of righteousness, though.

 

Proverbs 11:29 raises a point that I cannot reconcile. Why in the world would a person deliberately trouble their own home? Yet Solomon is not concerned with the why here. Only with the result: trouble, long-term trouble. I think the argument could be made that the troubler is out to bring an early demise to the paterfamilias, hoping for a cash windfall. Instead, he will get the wind. However, there’s more here, especially when you look ahead at Proverbs 15:27 which describes one who profits illicitly as “troubling his own house.”

 

The connection is there, and worth pondering. What matters more? Home or profit?

Remembering

September 11. This day brings so much to mind for any American who was mentally awake in 2001. There was such an odd combination of fear and anger, it was like nothing I hope to ever experience again.

And now, it’s twelve years later. Twelve years in which we have have seen thousands lose their lives in an effort to find, engage, and destroy people who want to be like the hijackers before those folks get to civilian populations. Twelve years in which tens of thousands of people have seen their lives greatly changed by that conflict, for bodies can be intact while minds are shaken.

It was a moment we all swore we would never forget. A change we promised we would make in our nation as a whole. To love one another. To focus on what matters. To serve each other and seek the benefit of our neighbors.

Since then, I fear we have have chosen to have a Day of Remembrance rather than lives of remembering. Take a look across the last twelve years. We pause every year on this day and take moments of silence. We read the names of the lost. All of this is good.

But in the intervening 364 days a year, how do we act? What type of leadership do we put up with from our governing authorities? Where do we love one another and seek the benefit of others?

Take a look at the news from the last decade. We’ve driven people to homelessness through real estate profiteering. We have no idea how to make access to health care affordable for people in general. We continue to assume that individual freedom comes without responsibilities. We hold that privacy allows us to kill off the weakest among us.

And we tolerate infantile behavior, paid on the tax dollar, from what should be the 546 most reasonable, most gracious people in the country.

We can lay all the wreaths we want to. We can skip the day on social media to honor the dead. We can buy a firefighter lunch today.

But when 9/12 goes back to the same old routine, it becomes empty. It is as if we think that one day is enough. It is not.

So, what do we do?

Speak a little more sweetly. Talk more with your neighbors. Text less while driving. Give blood. Care. Help. Support. Walk around with your eyes open to the world around you.

Go forward with your life, remembering there is a constant stream of blood, shed from 1775 (and even before, really) until this very day that enables your life.

Dear Olivia,
I feel like this is a good year to write you this letter. You’re twelve now. You’re starting to learn a lot more about how the world works, and there are some things that I think you need to know.

I want to start off, though, with an apology that I think I owe you. I don’t feel compelled to offer the same apology to your younger siblings, but I owe it to you. You see, you are not growing up in the world that your Mom and I brought you into. Some things changed between your birth day and your first birthday. Those changes showed me that you are growing up in the wrong book.

You know your Dad has always loved to read. My favorite books are history books, of course, the odder the better. I have favorite fiction books, too, though. They fall into two groups. The first are futuristic science fiction. Books that feel like Star Trek, where people travel through space just like crop dusters buzz our house these days. Books that point toward a future where things have gotten better. Fewer diseases, clean energy, no hunger. Good stuff.

The other type of fiction books that I have always loved, though, are less hopeful. I like what used to be called technothrillers. The Hunt for Red October, for example, or other Tom Clancy novels. Books that depict a world where good wins out, eventually, over evil, but only after evil exacts a terrible price on the world.

When you were born in early 2001, there was every reason to believe you would grow up in the first kind of book. Even with the contested election in 2000, while I was hopeful that Vice President Gore would not win, there was not a great fear of what would happen if he did win. In all honesty, I think he would have been less harmful, since he wouldn’t have had time to fabricate his semi-documentary film. True, there were some economic questions at hand–how we would deal with rising gas prices, how Enron was really making money, questions like that, but in my naiveté, I really thought better days were ahead.

September 11, 2001, changed all that. It was a normal day at the church we were serving. I was trying to placate the angry man who wanted to demand the pastor’s resignation (no, not me. I was the youth dude.) You and Mommy were at home, and you were likely asleep. Your Grandpa called me at work and told me that some idiot had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. You will have seen pictures of it. It was a pair of towers in New York City. Back when I was in elementary school, those towers were the tallest buildings in the world. Not much to look at, honestly, just two buildings that looked like most boring tall buildings. Just much taller.

The church secretary and I jimmied the lock into the pastor’s office, because that was the only TV in the church, and tuned in some news. There was a hideous column of black smoke coming from the building, and all we could think about was how they were going to get the people out of the building and fight the fire. Then the worst thing imaginable happened. Another plane hit the other tower. Within a couple of hours, there were two more plane crashes and the towers collapsed. More than 3,000 people lost their lives. At the time, there were estimates of upwards of 25,000 dead. Nobody knew.

What I did know was that you were going to grow up in the wrong book. There would be no flying cars and warp travel. No cold fusion or holodecks. Instead, you were going to grow up in a world of metal detectors and suspicions. It was a world that I knew was possible. I remembered the horror of Oklahoma City that led to no more unattended vehicles at major places and license requirements for nitrogen fertilizer. This was going to be worse. You are growing up in a world where every gathering of people is a potential target.

And I wish I could tell you that your father has always been brave and helped stand up to the evil in our world. The truth is, though, I haven’t been. I would like to believe that I have tried, but I am reminded every day of the price that many have paid that we have never had to. I tried in those first few years to earn a uniform and stand shoulder to shoulder with some of my friends that have done so, but I never could.

What I have done is the best I can do. I’ve tried to help you grow up as innocent of the carnage as I could. I don’t know that it was the best way to do it, but that is the choice that we made as your parents. The world, though, is catching up to us and you need to know. You need to know that you were born for a better world, but that I, and my fellow adults, have not been able to deliver it for you.

It really does fall to you and your generation to make it happen. You will have to be brave and strong, just as many others have been through the years. You will have to choose to fight fires, knowing it could be fatal. You will have to choose to stand against evil and tyranny, wherever they are. You will have to choose to stand up for the voiceless. You will have to choose to build bridges that help destroy enmity between peoples.

There is, unfortunately, no great deus ex machina to set the world back on track. No great breakthroughs or moments of positive progress. There is only the truth that you know so well: God created this world; God redeemed this world; God will return and judge this world.

And the biggest thing of all. That God loves the people on this world. He left that message, and left it with us. He works through us and in us to proclaim that. I wish that you could proclaim it to your fellow star voyagers or undersea dwellers. I still long to pastor First Baptist Church, Lunar Rock, as well. Instead, we have the world that is here. One in which the glimmer of hope in the lives of Believers is that can be found among the ashes.

Liv, you were born into a different world than what you live in. My heart aches for that. Yet you are able. I know that the challenges ahead are not insurmountable. You can, and you will, not only survive but thrive. For you are never alone. You are surrounded by people who love you, and even if they are missing, you are kept by the love of God.

As you find the truth of this world we live on, that it is at times a sin-soaked disaster zone and at other times a sin-wrecked crime scene, always remember that the God you serve loves it. He loves the people in it, and He has called you to be one of His messengers to those people. Love them, even though hate surrounds you. Love them, because He does, and that’s all that matters.


Love always,


Dad (Doug)
//Originally published by me at www.sbcvoices.com

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Proverbs 10: September 2013

I’ve been inconsistent, and I feel it. Not just in the posting, but the reading and the growing. I was out of town, which excuses the posting—it was intentionally put off. The personal discipline is the bad part.

Proverbs 10 reinforces the overall Solomonic construction of the book. Again, you need a good nerd-book to chase whether or not Solomon personally sat around and wrote all of these or if he was mainly the compiler. I think there’s room for him to have compiled wisdom from many locations and improved it, then kept it.

 

Proverbs 10:10 is about those who are deceptive and sneaky. Those who communicate one thing with their words and another with their actions are not wise. They are going to come to no good end.

 

Proverbs 10:9 should have been first, but that’s the way my brain has been rolling today. Walking in integrity is crucial. It’s not an option, and those who try and shift from honesty will be found out. In an honorable society, that being found out will bring negative consequences to the dishonest man. In a dishonorable society, well, it goes differently, doesn’t it?

 

Proverbs 10:19 ought to be memorized by every preacher. And it ought to be cited when any political speech goes longer than 14 minutes, and then the speech ended.

 

Proverbs 10:29 is reality, even though we may not see it. The way of YHWH is strength and security for eternity. Only the wicked falter at it.

Witnesses Abound: John 5

Again in this chapter, we see the arbitrary nature of the chapter divisions of the New Testament. In all honesty, I’d argue that the chapter divisions, except for the Psalms, are useful only for locating material. They have no actual meaning—and sometimes are filled with disparate ideas.

With this, we turn to John 5. Where do we go in this chapter? Should we take a look at the healing at Bethesda? Perhaps dip into how we once even called the National Naval Hospital here in the United States the Bethesda Naval Hospital, but politics consolidated it into the Walter Reed Army Hospital and thus we froze out the name?

Should we take a look at our old friends the Pharisees and other religious zealots, who are more concerned with a man carrying a mat than with him having not walked for 38 years? How they have not given two hoots for him as he lay, near healing and near exhaustion, just around the corner, but now worry about his “sin” of carrying a mat?

There are a great many ways to consider the story that occupies the first half of this chapter. I think we could learn a lot from considering what our preoccupation is: healing and the work of God or self-preservation and rule-keeping? I’m all for people sitting still and listening to sermons, but that’s not the most important thing every time. Sometimes, it’s more important to feed the truth over the chaos than to spend time eliminating the chaos.

And if someone were saved and delivered from addiction problems, who are we to trouble them about wearing shoes to church instead of flip-flops? Does that really matter?

Beyond this, though, I think the higher point of John 5 is the second half of the chapter. Jesus, as He answers the charges regarding His working on the Sabbath, makes the central claim of His purpose. John 5:17-19 record that Jesus called Himself equal with God. This was not a matter taken lightly by the religious establishment of Israel.

Jesus goes on through the rest of the chapter to speak of the witnesses to this fact. He does this, not because He needs proof of who He is, but to show just how clear God had made the Truth. There is the witness of John, the witness of the works Jesus did, the witness in those works of the Father’s approval, and the witness found in Scripture.

Dear reader, that’s a lot of witness to the Truth. The Law required two witnesses to establish something, and Jesus gives twice that number. These four provided are of different characters, and they all provide different forms of testimony. This is one of my favorite parts of the Gospel:

Jesus does not leave us with just one point of information. It is true that our current, primary source of information is the Bible, but that records multiple streams of information. Additionally, there should be a few other witnesses that we live alongside the Word of God. Our works should also witness the truth of Jesus Christ.

Further, looking at the four witnesses of John 5, we see differing witnesses that will resonate with different types of people. The activist sees Jesus’ works, the spiritual person sees the Father’s witness, the non-conformist sees John the Baptist’s testimony, and the bookworm searches the Scriptures. Across this spectrum, it is hard to not see the one group that rejects Jesus: the religious traditionalist.

We have to be careful with this. People have been following Jesus for two millennia. That’s a long time. Every generation adds traditions while pruning others, every culture adjusts for itself. These are not all bad, but we must be careful that these traditions are not taken to be more important than the idea behind them: that we follow Jesus with all we are.

That is where the Pharisees had gone wrong in the first half of John 5. Rather than remembering the Word of God or seeing the witness of the works of Jesus, they only saw tradition violated. Their reaction is troubling, but we cannot change theirs. We can only watch out for ours.

Are we doing so?

Today’s Nerd Notes:

1. Grab a good reference work on textual criticism (or a good commentary) and check out the background on why most modern translations bracket or footnote John 5:3-4. I’m not going to track that whole discussion here, but I do find it worth contemplating. It is less important how the man was not healed, the story is about how he was healed.

2. It is not uncommon to encounter the argument that Jesus never claimed to be God. How that survives this chapter is a mystery to me. The Jewish leaders are angry because He claims to be equal with God. Rather than say “No, that’s not what I meant,” He says “Indeed, and here’s the proof.” Seems good to know.

3. John 5:39 is a little fun in the Greek. The verse could be translated as the KJV does: “Search the Scriptures,” or as the NASB does “You search the Scriptures.” It could be a command or an observation on their behaviors. I’m inclined to think the ambiguity is actually correct. Jesus could be affirming their diligent searching of the Scriptures while also commanding they go look again. Of course, many make the argument that all of the dialogue would have been originally in Aramaic, so Greek nuances take on different questions.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up for September 8

These are the sermons from this past Sunday. We had a presentation from the Gideon’s International, so the morning sermon was shorter than normal.

Morning Audio

Morning Outline:

September 8 AM Almyra FBC Joshua 1:8

Central Idea: the centrality of the Word

I. In times of transition: focus on the Word

II. In times of need: focus on the Word

III. In times of ease: focus on the Word

IV. In times of plenty: share the Word

 

Evening Sermon Audio

Evening Video:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Die, Rebels! Numbers 16

Here we go: rebellion against authority brings death. This is the clear message of the narrative in Numbers 16 as we continue through the whole Bible. God has anointed His workers, and one dare not get in the way of that!

Except that is not the whole of the passage. It is true that there are several rebellions against the Moses and, by extension, God, in this chapter. Yes, indeed, we find people struck down for these rebellions. Or, in the case of Korah, we see the ground open up and swallow the rebels.

The key part of this passage, though, is none of those. We can already count the Israelites in this portion of the narrative as folks not to be like. They have accepted the negative report of the spies and turned their back on the Promised Land. Why would we think any of this is recorded to tell us to not be like the Israelites?

Instead, this passage serves an even greater example for us to learn from. It’s found in Numbers 16:46-48. At this point in the passage, there is a plague upon the people, and Moses sends Aaron to make atonement for the people before God. Verse 48’s “he took his stand between the dead and the living” gives us the image of Aaron standing at the line between where the plague has killed and where the plague is going.

And the plague stops. What do we take from this?

First, we cannot miss who takes the stand to end the plague: it is the very men who are being rebelled against. The next time you, the leader, start thinking that people need struck down for opposing you, you need to reread this. God’s leaders take their stand to preserve people for grace. That stand comes from the very leader that the rebellion is against.

Second, we cannot miss who brings the plague: Moses never asks for it. God brings the judgment in His own way. That is His business, and not ours. Why? Because we have to be aware of the possibility that the leadership we exhibit is wrong. We have to acknowledge our own need for rebuke. If, in hindsight, we see God cleared the way for our leadership, then that is another matter.

Third, we cannot miss the shadow of Jesus falling across this passage. Ultimately, without making this eschatological, all people are reflected in the Israelites of the wilderness. We all have gone astray from God’s commands, and we all have rejected His promises at times. We rebel. We rebel against the rightful King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Yet who stands between the dead and the living? Jesus does. He stands there, above the cross and beyond the empty tomb, to make atonement and stop the plague of sin.

Do you see that? Do you see that ultimately, we are all rebels against God and that His Own Son died in our place to stop the plague? Catch that here. Grab hold of this truth for all eternity.

Today’s Nerd Note: There’s a relationship between Korah and the “sons of Korah” or the Korahites mentioned frequently in the Psalms.

Don’t lose this: the worst traitors and rebels can become the greatest worshipers of the Lord God Almighty. So there is hope for you. There’s even hope for me.

Proverbs 5: September 2013

Proverbs 5: the warning to avoid immorality. We have a song in our home, called “Children, Don’t Touch the Hot Pan.” It’s part of my forthcoming album of titled Melodies for Kitchen Safety, and it goes something like this:

 

Children, don’t touch the hot pan

It will burn you

And you’ll cry

Oh, oh

Children,don’t touch the hot pan

It will burn you

And you’ll cry.

 

That’s the chorus. The verses need work. It’s a common refrain around here, and we’re adding a few other songs. Like “Don’t use your sister’s arm to test the sharpness of the knives.” But those need a good chord progression.

 

Back to the Proverbs: you would think a warning like those above would be so self-evident to be unnecessary. But it is necessary. So is Proverbs 5. You might think it unnecessary, but it’s critical. Avoid immorality. It destroys.

 

Proverbs 5:9 speaks of one portion of the price of immorality. Your efforts go to something that you cannot hold, someone that you cannot tame. Destruction follows this: how many years are wasted? How much time? Think of the stories of “I thought he’d eventually leave his wife for me.” or “She was just playing me for a fool the whole 5 years.” Guess what? Immorality wasted those portions of life.

 

And then there’s an extension on building a relationship on immorality that never gets better, even though you try. The sex was great, so you got married. Then the marriage was awful, and years later there is nothing but regret. Hmm…

 

Proverbs 5:19 speaks to the exhilaration that love can bring, that romance can be. It is like a glorious fire. In the right places, at the right times, it is a wonder and a comfort and a cheer. Keep it there and let it be so.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Updating the GPS

We’re taking a little trip, and leaving a half-trained monkey with an assault weapon in the house, this weekend. It’s a trip to my parents’ house, so we know where we’re going, but I’m updating the GPS just because we like to use it for trips like this. It’s fun to play “Race the Tom-Tom” and see if it really does take 4 hours to make the trip. (It doesn’t.)

While I don’t have to do much to get the GPS up-to-date other than plug it in and click “Yes” to the fourteen times the computer asks if I really want to update, it’s still a long process. I’m about 45 minutes in at this point and still waiting. Why does it take so long?

Because every three months, Tom-Tom updates the whole map. It doesn’t correct the map. It deletes the whole thing and starts over. Now, deep in the recesses of Tom-Tom Central, I’m sure they do not actually delete the whole thing. That’s just how it works for my personal GPS unit.

I’m warned that if I don’t keep my maps updated, even though it’s a long process, I may accidentally divert into a pond or drive off a bridge that no longer exists. These are a couple of my everyday fears, so I do my best to keep the GPS updated. Who wants to drive off a non-existent bridge into a pond, anyway?

Except there is something that should stop me from driving off that bridge. It’s those two things behind my glasses and that massive calcium-covered processor that they are wired to. My eyes and my brain should keep me from going off the deep end, literally, with the car.

Yet I keep my extra helper ready, just in case. I think it’s a symptom of a larger problem in our world right now. We rightly know that we cannot trust ourselves in all things. After all, the brain forgets at times, the heart is not always attracted to the right things.

But we are getting more and more acclimated to relying on someone else to tell us everything. We have experts to tell us not just how to exercise but when; not just what to eat but the exact right utensil to cook it with.

The idea that people should store some information in their brains, recall that information later, and apply it with some common sense appears to be passing out of fashion. And that is honestly a scary thought. It’s one thing to not remember every element on the periodic table. It’s fine to not remember Columbus and 1492, especially since he was just coming where Celtic Monks had been for centuries.

It’s not fine to not know poisonous from non-poisonous. Or to not know that you can’t drive in the river. Increased access to information is great, but the accompanying death of common sense does not bode well for us.

So, yes, update your GPS. But don’t let it replace having half a brain.

Proverbs 4: September 2013

Proverbs 4 should show you, if you haven’t gotten it yet, the value of the Proverbs and Wisdom overall. Why? Take a look at the imperatives: GET WISDOM! ACQUIRE WISDOM! These are not fluffy thoughts, but clear instructions.

 

Focal passages:

 

Proverbs 4:9 reminds us that wisdom is evident, and should be treasured like jewelry. One who is adorned in wisdom needs not fancy baubles and or trinkets. Without drawing the parallel too far, take a look at The Hunger Games and see that the people with wisdom are the simpler dressed folks—even Capitol resident Cinna is marked by his eschewing of over-the-top fashion fads. The fools need the trinkets and finery. Even the wicked who are intelligent have a restraint in their apparel—note President Snow.

 

Proverbs 4:19 explains most politicians, news media personalities, and entertainment stars. Life falls apart, and they have no idea why. How about you? Are you stumbling but cannot figure out why? Take a look at whether you are even trying to walk in righteousness. That’s a key in Proverbs (and most of Scripture): while “righteous” is an absolute, the character of God, “the righteous” are not those who have definitely attained it but those who are striving, by the power of God, to live up to that absolute. Be one of the righteous.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Proverbs 3: September 2013

Proverbs 3 addresses, again, the general value of wisdom. Further, this chapter promotes not only the acquisition of wisdom but the application of wisdom.

 

Proverbs 3:9 speaks to the importance of putting God first in our material and materiel wealth. It’s not enough to pay lip service to the One who saved us, but we must acknowledge Him in our actions. The Hebrew concept of “first” incorporates both chronology and quality—an early crop that was low-quality would be passed over to give the on-time that is better. That would not, however, excuse the need to give before keeping. How we do that now is another discussion.

 

Proverbs 3:19 points out that ‘wisdom’ underlies the whole of creation. From this, I would gather that we can grow in our understanding of wisdom through studying all parts of creation. Science helps us—but we start into science acknowledging that we are seeking God’s wisdom. This has long been part of the two sources of understanding: the Special Revelation of God in Scripture and the General Revelation of God in Creation. Both are important.

 

Proverbs 3:29 reflects on the importance of building relationships with the people around us. You should not plot the demise of your neighbor. I would suggest that we who live under grace should also see the wisdom of seeking the benefit of our neighbors. How that works requires more than a blog post to consider.

Jesus Needs Something? John 4

John 4:4, in most modern translations, runs something like “Jesus had to go through Samaria.” It is one of the rare verses that I actually like better in the King James: “And he (Jesus) must needs go through Samaria.”

Nowhere else that I can find in Scripture do we see the Word of God express a need, even for Jesus. We see descriptions of Jesus sharing our weakness, we see a few times where Jesus demonstrates physical needs like hunger. Yet we do not see Jesus really needing anything at a deeper level.

Except for here. Here, we see Jesus must needs do something. He must needs go through Samaria. Why?

We need a little history to get that information clear for us. First, the reality on the ground was that the Roman Empire controlled everything in the region that we now call Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and most of their neighbors. It was all one Empire, though the various administrative districts were different from one place to another.

National borders, however, are not everything. The Samaritans were one ethnic group, while the Jews who lived in the districts of Judea and Galilee were a different ethnic group. Now, back up the historical tree, there are several relationships between the two, but by the first century, these lines were pretty well sundered.

How sundered? Well, to get from Jerusalem to Galilee, one could either go through Samaria or go the long way. You cross the Jordan River, go through modern-day Jordan, then cross the river again farther north. It was a way to take an extra two days in travel, just to avoid a people group you did not like.

And the Samaritans, based on my reading of history, did not mind this arrangement, either. They were glad to be left alone.

In John 4, though, Jesus is headed from Jerusalem back to Galilee. The traditions of the time would have dictated that Jesus take the long way, but He needed something. He needed to break that tradition and make something else happen.

He needed the truth, the Gospel, Himself to not be restricted based on ethnicity. He needed to demolish the human tendency to build divisions and entrench those for generations.

The Gospel is greater than our divisions. The truth is more important than whose ancestors were born where.

So I raise to you this question:

Does Jesus still need something today? Or have we grown up enough?

Today’s Nerd Note: Ever looked at all the uses of “harvest” in the New Testament? Usually, the presentation of “harvest” is as if it’s a positive thing, but often the references to harvest seem to indicate that judgment is coming. Living in farm country, I would point out that this is an accurate view of harvest time. During harvest time is when the crops are judged: are these ready? Are these acceptable?

In this, we should consider this: the harvest is coming, and judgment will come. It is not for us to be the judges, but for us to prepare. For us to fertilize and plant, so that the crop is what it ought to be.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Book: God in Slow Motion

Note: Today’s Book is from Booksneeze.

Mike Nappa. The name means…well, not a whole lot to me. This man is not the flavor-of-the-month Christian author. Neither is he the latest-greatest-most-spectactularest preacher. Instead, he’s a man who has written books and finds other ways to fill his time and buy his groceries. His latest book is titled God in Slow Motion. It’s published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, and runs 206 pages in the paperback.

Let’s dispense with a preliminary complaint about God in Slow Motion: endnotes. I know, it’s not his fault, and I know it’s because of e-books and page formatting for the publisher. So, while I severely dislike endnotes and long for footnotes, I’ll cope. Moving on…

Nappa’s work in God in Slow Motion is inspired by the idea of trying to look behind the normal speed of life and see what God is doing underneath it all. His inspiration, based on the introduction, is the work of Eadweard Muybridge to capture the view of a racehorse in motion. Muybridge’s work showed the reality of a racehorse at gallop: it does leave the ground. Further, it was the basis of this work that led to moving pictures in view.

Nappa, however, is not giving film history. Instead, he is interested in seeing how God is at work underneath, what is going on behind the stories. The views expressed by Nappa are within the bounds of orthodoxy: his Biblical work is fine, though he has not drilled deeply in the academic sense for God in Slow Motion.

The writing style is accessible: Nappa typically writes for a family magazine, so he has the tools to put God in Slow Motion smoothly in front of us. From a Biblical studies perspective, if you are familiar with the major stories of the Bible, you will not find new ground here.

You will find new ways to think about what God is doing from reading God in Slow Motion. I see no reason not to commend this work to you.

Disclosures: I received a copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for the review. In all honesty, I probably would have skipped it in the bookstore, but that would have been my life.

Proverbs 2: September 2013

Proverbs 2 establishes the reasons one should seek wisdom. I think we should recognize that there are three choices, but two lead the same place: the first choice is to choose folly. The second is to choose wisdom. The third is to make no choice and just drift. Only actively choosing wisdom furthers one’s cause. The other two choices go the same direction, though active choice of folly is more rapidly destructive.

 

Proverbs 2:9 illustrates exactly what’s wrong right now. People without the fear of YHWH are trying to establish justice, and you cannot establish justice without wisdom. And wisdom? It’s skill for living in fear of YHWH. So, where does that put you?

 

Proverbs 2:19 warns us that there is a point of no return. This is a reality in practically every school of philosophy and religion known to man: you reach a point of irretrievability. For the Christian, we believe that there is no point beyond redemption, other than death. However, that does not mean a life cannot be wasted beyond usefulness. Watch that point. As Thomas Thomas says, “Turn around when possible!”

Monday Thoughts

Well, typically Mondays are the sermon wrap-up, but I got that done yesterday. So, what about today? How about a few random thoughts:

1. I think that a dictator who uses chemical weapons is a major, major problem. I thought so in 2003, I think so in 2013. Ten years in, though, we know just how difficult it would be to actually remove that dictator and replace him with a viable democracy. We know clearly from Egypt and Libya the past two years that the first group arising out of the revolt are not going to be friendly to the United States nor to dissident and divergent viewpoints. With that in mind, I think jumping into Syria is a waste of time and effort. We will not commit the resources to actually getting everything done, and anything less will not actually impact the situation.

Unless the goal is to replace the current dictator with the Muslim Brotherhood so that they have the chemical weapons. And get another ambassador killed. No, all in all, there’s no upside here. We should see, though, the value in pursuing the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction from the face of the planet.

2. Something needs to change with the systems around college football. First of all, the idea is that someone can get an education paid for by playing ball. Not that someone can play ball while hanging out on a college campus. Second, there’s enough money rolling into the more famous programs that there should be a way to pass some back, legitimately, to the athletes that make the money come in. I liked the idea I heard on the radio last week: pool it, hold it until they graduate. Leave early, lose money. Third, the NCAA. They get their own thought.

3. The NCAA rulebook for eligibility and athletic programs is a microcosm of the American system and what’s wrong. I don’t have any evidence, but I bet originally the thought was “These are students, getting scholarships. That should be enough money, no professional athletes allowed.” However, people went looking for loopholes to win. So the rulebook started having to close the loopholes that individual honor should have been enough for.

Now the rulebook is so out-of-control, no one can really keep up with it. There’s a job or two at every major college that is just about following NCAA rules. There is talk of seceding from the NCAA to start over with fewer rules. Why? Because if you have no individual honor, conscience, or ethics, there are too many rules needed to keep you in line.

Now, take a look at the legal system of the United States. We’re following the same path: a law for everything. Sometimes 2.

4. Crockpots are awesome. I was wondering how people lived before the crockpot, and then it clicked: they lived slower and threw a pot on the fire in the morning. They didn’t need a crockpot. Duh.

5. Some fast food workers deserve more money, but legislating it across the board is foolish. Further, some fast food workers should be seeking advancement. Of course, since we’ve been outsourcing jobs like a big dog, especially since the 1990s, there’s nowhere to advance. You can’t replace career-type jobs with fast food jobs and have the economy hold up. Doesn’t work. And some people saw this coming with NAFTA and other free trade agreements.

6. If I were the commissioner of baseball, I would shorten the season to make sure the end of the World Series was mid-October. A shorter regular season would increase fan attention and reduce injury. Oh, and I’d ban Alex Rodriguez until Pete Rose’s ban is over.

7. Labor Day evokes mixed emotions. I know the good done by unions, like using real gas alarms in coal mines instead of birds or the 5-day work week. I also know that when I worked for UPS, all the union really seemed to want was my money—they had a full-time guy who lived off union dues (making more than most of the employees) and spent his days helping people who really deserved to be fired get their jobs back. Labor is what makes the country great, organized labor has done great things, but at times it really is as corrupt as organized politics.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Proverbs 1: September 2013

We return to the first chapter of Proverbs. The opening chapter establishes Solomon’s authorship and commends wisdom to the reader. I do not exactly where I come down with Solomon’s authorship: did he write all of the proverbs in Proverbs or are some proverbs in Proverbs proverbs that he knew from others and therefore recorded in Proverbs?

 

My belief in the Divine Inspiration of Scripture makes this a secondary question: all that is present is intended by, and protected by, the Sovereign God of all. One can take Proverbs 1:1’s “Of Solomon” legitimately either way. Some of the book, one is hard-pressed to think Solomon wrote it himself. Either that, or he forgot it later. Especially the parts about women.

 

Proverbs 1:9 reminds us the value of wisdom. It is not merely a private value, but is visible just like fine jewelry. What should we pursue? The wisdom. Let that decorate our whole life.

 

Proverbs 1:19 points out that violence is not a smart way to achieve gain in this world. One may have short-term benefits, but it will ultimately destroy you. I wonder how this should be considered by those who spend time entertaining through violence.

 

Proverbs 1:29 tells us that Solomon saw no disconnect between knowledge, wisdom, and fear of God. This is abundantly evident here, and should be remembered by us all. Knowledge ought to strengthen our faith, and it is not to be feared.

Sermon Wrap-Up for September 1

No evening sermon this week. It’s our annual Hibbard Cookout at church, marking another year in Almyra.

Also, if you note any audio or video problems, please let me know.

Morning Audio Link is Here

Video:

The Only Barrier for the Holy Spirit

1: The need for God to work

I. World

II. Church

III. Personal / Family

2. Acts 8

I. Prior religious dispute is no barrier (Samaritans)

II. Ethnic differences are no barrier (Ethiopians)

III. Persecution is no barrier (Antioch)

IV. Prior paganism is no barrier (Samaritans again!)

V. Personal profit? That's a barrier: God shares His glory with no one! (Simon Magus)

A. It is the nearest form of idolatry

B. This is a space where the Spirit God is not unableto work

C. Instead, He is unwillingto work

3. What do we do?

I. World

II. Church

III. Personal / family

Worship Service Recaps for May 17

We’ve done another week of worship-via-Internet-connectivity. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this to be over. That covers Sunday ...