Monday, October 28, 2013

Book: Letters from Ruby

Fortunately, sometimes being a reviewer forces me to a novel. I like novels. I just don’t read them as often as I used to.

Imagine yourself a newly-minted pastor, sent out to lead your first church. I’ve actually been there, done that, and it’s not hard to imagine. It’s the point where the rubber meets the road, and you realize just how much you have left to learn. Adam Thomas’ new novel Letters from Ruby looks into just that situation. Calvin Harper is new to the ministry, new to rural life, and newly being arrested for attempting to break into the church, because he has no key!

This start kicks off a novel told as a series of flashbacks about young Rev. Harper’s first charge in the ministry. These flashbacks are interspersed with personal letters written to the reverend after he has been reassigned to a different ministry. As a general fiction read, it was great fun, and a novel that I am not troubled to leave laying around my home for even my pre-teen daughter to glance through. It may not quite be exciting enough for her tastes, but it is certainly acceptable reading for her.

I found the characters to be fully believable within Thomas’ Letters from Ruby. This may be because I have also pastored that first church in a rural setting, though I lacked a Ruby to get me through much of it. Others may not have been able to put faces with names as I could, but I assure you that I had both faces and different names for each and every character of Letters from Ruby.

Letters From RubyPlot-wise, Letters from Ruby does not move very quickly. This may drive a few readers to put the book down and come back later, but it presents a fairly good picture of pastoral life: Rev. Harper has a few days like I have had: wall-to-wall for 48 hours, then rather sleepy for weeks!

As a novel, Letters from Ruby works well, though it is not a nail-biter or heart-pumper. For some, the typical life stages shown in the book may bring tears, but for others they only reflect what we experience on a daily basis. I liked this as a novel.

I liked Letters from Ruby even better as a pastoral brain-pusher. Many times, I see pastors (and I have myself) run splat into the wall of reality in their opening years of ministry. However, a few real-life lessons are helpful to remind us of how success should truly be measured in ministry. While Thomas does not explicitly cite how he learned these lessons, it is clear to me that he has some experience in these moments.

I also liked the reminder of the value of personal letters. If I found a fault here, it would be that Letters from Ruby is written by an Episcopalian about Episcopalians, and this Baptist isn’t quite sure what the traditions and habits of The Episcopal Church actually are! So, while some readers will know immediately what schedules and services Rev. Harper is keeping, it was a shade lost on me. That only detracts from my nerd-nature in reading the book for information, but brings no harm on reading for enjoyment.

If this has intrigued you, or if you just want to see for yourself, I would encourage you click on this link: The First Chapter of Letters from Ruby and read the first chapter. I think you’ll be hooked.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for the review. However, no demand was made for a favorable review.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Only His Words: Numbers 23

We carry on with Balaam’s narrative in Numbers 23. To refresh your memory, Balaam was hired by Balak to curse Israel. The storyline is interwoven between all the chapters, so while each chapter gets a post, there is considerable cross-referencing between Numbers 22, 23, and 24.

Let us start, though, with Numbers 23:12, for this is the hinge on which this story turns. Balaam has gone off and sacrificed, entreating YHWH to provide him with a word to speak about Israel. Those words? They are words of blessing rather than cursing, and this leaves Balak more than just a little miffed.

Balaam, though, insists that he can only speak the words that YHWH, the One True God, puts in his mouth. Nothing else. We can consider a few lessons from this:

  • First: Balaam was hardly a God-honoring man. He is quite clearly a prophet-for-profit, rather than a true worshiper of anything. Looking back a the negotiations of Numbers 22, he’s in this for the money, not for the love.
  • Second: Balaam, even as a profit-seeker, was able to prophesy good and right things about Israel.
  • Third: Balaam, in the end, has this good moment and then sins, brings the people down, and signs his own death warrant (Numbers 31:8).

What about us, then?

#1: It is possible for a wicked person to speak a righteous truth. That is among the harder lessons here. People can be profit-seeking, self-serving sinners and still speak truthful things. Or right things. It is possible. It is also annoying.

#2: This is the corollary point to #1: it is possible for a sinner to speak a righteous truth. If you are waiting for a perfect preacher, teacher, author, etc., you are stuck with the text of the Bible and nothing else. All of your potential Bible teachers are imperfect.

#3: No amount of money, political pressure, or convenience should cause us to say things that are contrary to the word of God. We cannot take away His blessing from those who already have it.

#4: This is the corollary point to #3: that includes adding to, as much as it does taking away. Want an example? Pick politics. Take the Obamacare law, for example. There is nothing in the Bible about government providing or not providing health insurance for anyone. NOTHING. It is therefore not something that “The Word of God” says is evil or says we must do. You cannot put those words in the mouth of God. Make them your own, and explain them.

#5: The idea that it is agreeable before God (Numbers 23:27) to curse those God has blessed should be laughable to us. Now, who has God blessed? Through Jesus, all humanity is blessed with the opportunity to salvation. How dare we curse by not sharing the love and truth of the grace of God?

Today’s Nerd Note:

First, of course, note in your Bible translation the use of LORD for the name of God. See here for some of the issues on that issue. I prefer going ahead and using the transliteration of the Name here, or some how separating the English pronunciation, even if you hold YHWH as a name not to be spoken.

Second, there is a lot unsaid here, about the actual religious practices of the day. I think we need to consider the possibility that some behaviors are wicked enough that we do not give them voice, even to condemn them.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 23 from Doug

Proverbs 23:10 hits two truths: one, don’t try to fake a property line and deprive your neighbor. Two, do not afflict the needy. Seriously. I would suggest we all re-read C.S. Lewis’ musings in Mere Christianity about the dangers of economic systems to people and to faith. Especially how he highlights that for many centuries, those who took the Old Testament seriously refused to use interest in their banking.

 

And we sure do—and high interest rates and usury truly hurt the needy.

 

Proverbs 23:20 is a great reminder as I head on vacation: watch out for those who are prone to over-doing things. Too much of good things, and too much of bad things, leads to destruction.

 

Proverbs 23:30 fits in with a general condemnation of those who spend too much time with wine. Multiple arguments are made about how this applies in the here and now compared to how it applied to the there and then—when Solomon writes this, water is not safe to drink very often, but mixing in a little wine makes it safe. We don’t have that issue now.

 

So the real question is this: if we are arguing over where “too far” is, do you think it’s better to just stay away? Perhaps so.

Book: Memoirs of the Way Home

Today’s Book is Memoirs of the Way Home by Gerald M. Bilkes. It’s provided by the publisher in exchange for the review.
Ezra. Nehemiah. History books from the Old Testament that we often read for their Memoirs of the Way Home by Gerald M. Bilkesnarrative, but are not always read for the spiritual value to the New Testament believer. Into this discussion comes Gerald M. Bilkes’ new book, Memoirs of the Way Home. It looks a little like this:
Bilkes presents the idea that the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah are more than merely historic. Instead, he sees the connection between the narrative of the return from exile and coming to salvation and a right relationship with God.
The difficulty with this view is that it runs the risk of allegorizing an historical text. Sound hermeneutics takes the text for what it is, not for what we want it to be.
However, Memoirs of the Way Home does a good job avoiding that pitfall. Bilkes uses the narratives not to claim we are Ezra and Nehemiah, but to show how their stories should move us to action.
The result is a devotional commentary on the text. Bilkes highlights the value of the text, but he does not delve into the academic sides of the text. There is no need for a working knowledge of Hebrew here, or even more than a surface knowledge of Biblical history to make this book work for you.
That is not a negative on its own, because you can get your hands on other commentaries for that information. Memoirs of the Way Home is a great addition for the pastor’s library or for the Christian working through Ezra and Nehemiah.
Note: free book in exchange for the review. See more here: http://crossfocusedreviews.com/

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 22 2013 by Doug

This is not an apology for not posting, but an observation: when I write Proverbs daily, I do better with every other aspect of my writing efforts. When I don’t, I have trouble. There is something to this about building wisdom and focus.

Proverbs 22:10 tells us how to handle people who are divisive. Drive them out, and end the controversy. I think it’s worth noting that the scoffer is one who simply finds fault, not one with real questions, doubts, or concerns. Also, scoffing is a character flaw. A scoffer can agree with you—but they’re still a scoffer. Boot them from the discussion.

 

Keep the person who is willing to learn, even if they are contrary most of the time.

 

Proverbs 22:20 is the first half of a segment about the value of writing important information. Keep it written down, keep it recorded for your sake and the sake of others.

Stinketh! John 11

We come now to the story of Lazarus. John 11 is where we find the recounting of this event. Jesus travels to Bethany upon his friend, Lazarus, dying. The immediate impetus for travel is that Jesus heard from a messenger, but John quickly dispels any notion that Jesus did not already know in verses 13 and 14, showing He knew exactly what was happening.

If you have read through this chapter, you know how this goes: Jesus goes to Bethany. Martha meets Him on the road, admits that she wanted to Jesus to heal the sick Lazarus, and weeps. Mary then comes and they have the same interaction. Jesus then goes to the tomb, commands the stone be removed, and raises Lazarus.

That’s all well and good. We could spend hours dissecting how amazing this is. We could spend time on how this miracle was the pinnacle of the signs in John’s Gospel, and how that transitions so well into the Passion Week. We could focus on how Lazarus, being in the tomb four days was not merely mostly dead. He was all dead. His pockets had been gone through, the loose change was gone. And this was no pill, no medicine, just the word of God to bring him back.

Instead I’d like to point you to my favorite verse here: John 11:39 and Martha’s insistence that “by this time, he stinketh!”

Stinketh. Smelleth bad, in the alternate versions to the King James.

Martha is convinced that things have gone from bad to worse, and gotten past the point of redemption. She has lost the hope that God can do anything about it anymore, all that she has left is the hope for the final resurrection, the end of time.

And it is so easy to fault her, laugh and go on with life. How silly! He stinketh, but God is bigger! God is stronger.

But then I stop and think about what stinketh to me.

I think about the foul stench that comes from the United States Government. Honestly, if I could buy 537 seats on the Titanic, I would give them to every elected member of the federal government. Why? They stinketh. Every last one of them, in my opinion. The ones who are honest enable the criminal element among them, and altogether they are making a wreck of this nation. The reason we haven’t been attacked by terrorists and other enemies in the last decade? Who could do more damage than our own government? Seriously.

Yet are they beyond hope? Despite my desire to lock them all in a cave and roll a stone in front of it for four years, there’s not a Repulicrat or Democan that is irredeemable. None are too stinky.

Then there are those religious leaders who mistreat and abuse their charges in ministry. Yet even these are not so stinky that God cannot work in their lives.

Who do you class as stinketh? Your political enemies? People who did not have the same advantages as you and don’t fit your moral categories right now?

Perhaps you would call another culture one that stinketh?

Your attitude harms one person: yourself.

You will spend your time weeping rather than seeing the miracle of the work of God. It’s a marvelous thing to see, that God works in situations that none of us fathom as workable.

Stop looking for the smells and look at the Saviour.

Today’s Nerd Note: Take a look later in the chapter. What do you do with the idea that the High Priest prophesied with clarity due to his office and not his own spiritual understanding?

How does that apply to any work done by those who God has placed in authority or leadership situations? Even if they are not the kind of people we like?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up October 20

I hope to get some more items on the blog in the coming couple of weeks, but it’s a week that is half-vacation, followed by a week that’s half-Baptist State Convention. Basically, that’s two great weeks, but the back half of this one will be mostly de-teched.

Morning Sermon: Audio is here

Video:

Just Obey: Judges 11

Jepthath:

Obedience:

I. Disregard your past: who was Jephthah's father? We just don't know

II. Forgive those who have wronged you

III. Obey the Lord to meet the needs of the time

     1. Do what you know needs done

          A. Love

          B. Share

          C. Support

     2. Do not bring in the practices of this world

          A. Child Sacrifice

          B. Child Sacrifice

     3. Listen to how God guides:

          A. The Holy Spirit speaks through the Word

          B. The Holy Spirit speaks through the church

 

Evening Sermon: Audio is Here

Video:

Psalm 46
I. Troubles

Mountains Falling
Earth Changing
II. Trust
Word of God
YHWH of Hosts
III. Triumph
CEASE STRIVING!
Peace and rest

Friday, October 18, 2013

Book: The Reichenbach Problem

I sit here with a text of The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes on one side of my desk, and Martin Allison Booth’s The Reichenbach Problem on my desk. It should be obvious that the latter is utterly dependent on the former for its existence, not only for plot and inspiration, but in the case of genre and popularity.
I will certainly not endeavor to delve into all of the eccentricities of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, though I will point the reader to Jim Weiss’ excellent retelling of Holmes’ stories. As a side note, I first heard Jim Weiss as a storyteller recounting the biography of both Doyle and Holmes. Masterful.
Let us turn attention, instead, to Booth’s The Reichenbach Problem. Booth’s work is an attempt to capture the magic of the Holmes stories by taking a different approach. Rather than rewriting Sherlock or adding to Sir Arthur’s work, The Reichenbach Problem puts the mystery into the hands of one exhausted author, the creator of Holmes, Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle.
I would speak of the negative first. This is the first in a proposed trilogy, and so tries exceedingly hard to build up the potential for the next two while also creating a story line that can be resolved within 369 pages. It is almost too much to try and build the backstory of Doyle, excuse his frustration with Holmes, and solve the mystery. This leads to parts of the work feeling underdeveloped. I would reserve final judgment until the whole series is produced. While as a stand-alone, this might be a 3-star book, a good series would pull it to 4. Likewise, a bad follow-up would pull it down.
Now, the positives. First of all, while there is some spirituality to the book, Booth has done well in The Reichenbach Problem to not Christianize Doyle, who was, based on my understanding, certainly not a believer. I like this: it shows a willingness to work with a character as he is, not as we wish he would be.
Second, I like the development of Doyle into understanding he is not the genius that Holmes is. Booth’s Doyle sees what I have wondered: that Dr. Conan Doyle wrote himself into the Holmes stories as the doctor. He is Watson. Holmes is something greater, more ideal.
I also enjoyed the idea of a man aggravated by his own success. Conan Doyle wrote many other works besides the Holmes stories, yet the Royal Mail still delivers to 221 B Baker Street, even to this day. The obvious affection for Holmes grates on the Conan Doyle of The Reichenbach Problem, and this makes the odd gentleman of history a little more real.
This was a fun read. It is not as complex of a mystery as some of the actual Sherlock Holmes tales, but The Reichenbach Problem remains a worthwhile diversion. I cannot help but wonder, though, if Booth will remind us that it is at Reichenbach Falls that Sir Arthur first killed Holmes…
Note: Kregel Publishers, on behalf of Lion Fiction, sent me this book to review. No monetary compensation was given, nor is any control exercised over the content of this review.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Curses, foiled again: Numbers 22

250px-Donkeyshrek

Numbers 22 very well might be the inspiration for a certain furry movie character, but I’m going to fade a little bit away from talking donkeys. I do not doubt that all things are possible through the power of God, including the occasional talking animal, and see no point in bickering that out. If there is an omnipotent God, then talking donkeys are no big deal, just like any other miracle. On those issues, we should discuss the root and not the branch: is the God of the Bible the God of the Universe, as described, or is He not? If He is, then talking donkeys and parted seas are merely outcroppings, not real issues to debate.

Instead, I would have you take a look at the broader situation in Numbers 22. Balaam has been hired to put a curse on the people of Israel. So far, the Israelites have put a major beatdown on every enemy they have encountered. This includes wrapping up Numbers 21 by defeating Sihon and Og. These two kings attempted to capture Israel as they passed through their territory, rather than allowing them to pass by.

The king of Moab decided that he would not attempt to face Israel in straight-up battle. Instead, Balak sends for a prophet to put a curse on Israel. He finds a man named Balaam. We do not know a lot about Balaam, and there is no evidence of his FaceScroll Carving advertising himself as a spiritualist. The best we can do is infer that he was some sort of religious celebrity, known well enough that the Moabites send out to the land around the Euphrates to hire him.

I think it is one possibility that Balaam gets this call because the Moabites know the connection between the horde of Israelites they see and that wanderer from the land around the Euphrates 400 years ago, Abraham. This could represent an effort to find someone who has a line to the tribal deity of Abraham’s family, and have that person perform a curse ritual. I do not find much in support of this, but we are looking at the Moabites traveling several weeks to hire Balaam. There has to be a reason.

Balaam comes, and is called upon to curse the people of Israel. He does inform Balak that he can only say what God gives him to say, and then he is sent out to pronounce his curses.

Except God puts these words into Balaam: blessings and prophecies of God’s favor.

Now, much of this builds on Numbers 23 and 24 as well, but I think we should hit this at the beginning:

Blessing and cursing are in the hand of the power of God.

Not in anything else. Not in anyone else.

Only in God’s hands.

Why does this matter?

Because we do not need to walk through this world fearing that we might pick up an accidental curse here or there. Or that we might have been born with one, did not know it, and that’s what has wrecked our lives all this time. If only we had known…

There is no spiritual power that exists at the level of God. Are there other spiritual forces? Yes. Do any of them equal the One True God? No. Nothing is greater than He.

If there is a curse, it is permitted by Him, and Scripture supports, from cover to cover, that curses come from a person’s willful participation in sin. Especially on this side of the Cross, where the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus has made atonement for sin.

So lose the fear. I recognize that there are powers, but the powers of darkness run from the light. Put your effort into following the Light and back away from the fear of darkness. You don’t live there anymore.

And hired guns out to curse you for money, curse you for following God, curse you for the good God has done for you?

They are powerless. Unless you give them your fears to work with.

Today’s Nerd Note:

Dig a little into the identity of the Angel of YHWH. Some call this individual a theophany, or a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus on earth. That’s typically based in a few of the passages in Genesis. It is difficult to nail down—there are non-angelic behaviors, like accepting worship, that the Angel of YHWH does in the Old Testament.

It is also possible that this angel is just an angel, and the Old Testament author is more concerned with the power behind the messenger—the God who the angel works for—than with the angel. Much like you likely don’t remember the name of your UPS driver but you do know where the boxes come from.

This is, certainly, a point worth remembering. We can chase rabbits all day, but it’s about God, not about anyone else.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings: October 16

In case you want the audio for the sermons for this week, it’s here:

Now, on to your regularly scheduled Wednesday wanderings.

The Gospel Project materials we are using skip from Joshua 24 to Judges 3. This means we skip Judges 1 and 2, so if you want some of what I have to say about that, here it is: http://www.doughibbard.com/2013/09/sermon-wrap-up-for-september-15.html

I also recently preached Judges 3, and it’s here: http://www.doughibbard.com/2013/09/sermon-wrap-up-for-september-22.html

On to the material. First of all, the material for the kids includes a video-based presentation of the Biblical passage. I do not understand why Lifeway skipped portraying Ehud as left-handed. They have him stab Eglon with his right hand. That’s wrong.

More important information abounds, though. It is this: God used people, and still uses people, to accomplish His purposes.

Those purposes can be positive or negative in the short-term. For example, the oppressors of Israel are being used for God’s purposes. It is painful in the short-term and positive in the long-term. Why? Because it brings repentance.

The judges are part of that work. They are used by God to bring about repentance, even if only for a short time.

What else?

I wonder if the judges knew they were “The Judges” or if they just did what was necessary? I’m reminded of a Star Trek line about not trying to be great. Just do what you can, and let history determine greatness. Or something like that. It’s in First Contact.

I wonder how the Israelites lost Jerusalem, which they captured in Judges 1 but David has to recapture in 2 Samuel.

I also wonder what Adoni-Bezek’s real name was, since Adoni-Bezek basically means “lord/king of Bezek.”

The incident in Judges 2 with the Angel of YHWH is interesting, as it highlights the whole problem. We do not eliminate sin completely, and then it sticks around. That’s a problem, and it persists.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sheep Listen: John 10

John 10 gives us the last pure teaching section of the Gospel of John. John 11 goes into the story of Lazarus, and after that the Passion Week begins. While there are other teaching and preaching moments in the life of Jesus, I am sure, that happen between these chapters, this is the last one from John.

I think that’s important to consider. Think about this: probably John wrote his Gospel after Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. It is possible that John was aware of the other three, and had perhaps read them. He then writes an account that builds on those accounts. I accept the theory that puts John’s authorship somewhere in the 80-90 AD range, meaning he wrote not only with the other Gospels written, but with a long lifetime of reflection on the life of Jesus. John, then, has thought about what needs to be told. A great deal.

Jesus teaches throughout this chapter about His followers as sheep. Now, I’ve heard for many years that sheep are not the brightest critters and various other negatives about sheep. There is, however, nothing negative given about sheep in this passage. Jesus does not bring us up as sheep to degrade His followers. He points us out as sheep for a couple of other purposes.

The first is this: Jesus highlights people as sheep because sheep have keepers, and keepers can be good or bad. And He is drawing the comparison not between people as sheep versus people as something smarter, but between good shepherds and bad shepherds. He is highlighting the failure of those who claim religious authority over others and then exercise it without compassion. Those who claim to be for God’s people but who live only to honor themselves.

This is the contrast in John 10. Between caring shepherds and wicked ones. Jesus is not speaking about how clueless we can be, not that we are not clueless at times, but that we must seek only to follow those shepherds who echo the voice of our True Shepherd. Not those whose voices call us to themselves.

Which brings us to the second point: who do the sheep listen to? Jesus highlights not the foolishness of sheep here, but the learning capacity of sheep. Sheep learn to hear their shepherd’s voice. Sheep know who leads them, follow familiar voices, and feed where they are led.

So here lies our question today: are we learning to hear the voice of the True Shepherd?

We are, likely, listening to to someone. Is it the One who created us, saved us, redeemed us, and sustains us?

Or is it someone who claims to speak on His behalf, but sounds nothing like Him? If we want to know the voice of God, we start with His Word. If another is out of congruence with Him, then we abandon that voice and focus on the voice of God Himself.

The question is this: will we learn and react? Jesus says that His sheep know His voice and follow Him—are you following another voice, just because a few others have the wool pulled over their eyes? Are you following another voice because you know you can always go back? Turn back to the one true Voice: the voice of Jesus.

Today’s Nerd Note: John 10:16. Aliens?

http://i0.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/005/848/ancient-aliens.jpg

Believe it or not, that has been proposed as the “other sheep” of John 10:16. Another religion claims that the “other sheep” were Jews who had sailed to the Americas and founded a new society.

Personally, I’ll give you the answer: it is people that are not Jews. John’s Gospel is very centered in the life of Roman Israel. However, John is writing from the Roman world. He likely now lives in, or has lived, in Ephesus. He has traveled and seen Jew, Greek, Gentile, Scythian, Barbarian, and more come to be part of the Flock of God.

These are the other sheep. It’s important to John to remind his readers of this, that Jesus Himself referred to that time coming. Let us remember it as well: not all believers look like us in the mirror.

Who knows, they may even have weird hair and believe in aliens.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up from October 13

Here we are again, another week has flown by and here we are, recapping sermons again.

Morning Audio is linked here: http://blog.doughibbard.me/2013/10/13/october-13-am-revelation-2210-15.aspx

Morning Video:

Morning Outline (There was some pretty substantial deviation from this, but here you go anyway):

October 13 2013

Revelation 22:11-5

I. Forgiveness: blessed are those who wash their robes

II. Practice righteousness

III. Inside or outside?

IV. The Beginning and the End

V. Render according to what we have done--apart from the grace of God, that would be bad

Evening Audio is linked here: October 13 2013 PM Judges 8:22-27

Evening Video:

Evening Outline:

October 13 2013 PM Judges 8:22-27

I. Hero worship is dangerous

II. Self-promotion and personal profit is, too

III. Be careful to see the limits God has placed on you--Ephods were for priests

IV.  Do not build idols

Friday, October 11, 2013

Book: Bake Through the Bible

A Quick Note: Ann and I both agreed to review this book, so we are doing a joint review of Bake Through the Bible. It’s available here at the family blog or here on my blog.

Today’s review is a book from Cross Focused Reviews.

Bake Through The Bible by Susie Bentley-Taylor & Bekah MooreSome parents work naturally with their children in the kitchen. Others need a bit of help. Bake Through the Bible offers that little bit of help in a fun way.

Bake Through the Bible is a cookbook and Bible lesson guide all rolled into one. Each of the twenty activities includes the following components:

  • a Bible story
  • an overview of the cooking activity that reinforces the Bible story
  • step-by-step instructions for cooking, including tips and hints
  • “While You Cook” and “While You Eat” discussion guides, as well as a prayer focus

Bake Through the Bible is a beautiful and book! The pages are full-color, yet well designed to make sure no information gets “lost” in the presentation. Illustrations accompany each recipe, both for the cooking process and to show the end result. It’s also a durable book, with pages that can be cleaned up after spills and usage.

As for the recipes themselves, not every recipe in Bake Through the Bible will be appropriate for every family. But, the recipes are structured for maximum ease of working with children, especially if parents read through each activity in advance to notice the tips, warnings, and time-savers.

The Bible stories are split evenly between the Old and New Testaments. They are paraphrased in the text of Bake Through the Bible, but the references are clear. I’m not too fond of every paraphrasing method chosen by the authors, but I have not seen anything truly negative about the Bible stories.

Bake Through the Bible truly does accomplish its purpose of bringing families together in the kitchen to learn cooking skills and the Bible stories all at the same time. Even parents who are not particularly skilled in the kitchen can utilize this book, as it clearly outlines certain techniques and skills needed to complete the recipes. It claims to be for young children, but even parents of children through middle school age could benefit from this fun book.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

One Good Snake: Numbers 21

I’m not a big fan of snakes. While I am not Indiana Jones-bothered by snakes, they are not on my list of favorite things. Snakes are not even on my list of not-favorite things. They are on my “gee, let’s hope we get through the day without meeting one of these” things list. I have tended to agree with the classic proverb that the only good snake is a dead snake.

However, I come to Numbers 21 and have to correct myself. There is one good snake in the Bible. It is, of course, not a biting snake but a healing snake. How so?

Once again, the people of Israel were complaining. There wasn’t food enough. There wasn’t water. The trip was taking too long. All in all, it was just not a good day. Even though they had destroyed Arad and were actually finally going to the Promised Land, the standard complaint arose: “Why are we out here to die instead of in slavery?”

This recurs in the Exodus narrative so much that you almost want to assume that there is some embellishment. Surely no one could complain that much, could they? Yet one or two minutes considering our own experience would remind us that we complain rather repeatedly about the same old things. Why would the Israelites have been any different?

Consider the last time you went to the fridge and looked in it, determining there was no food there. Now, I have been in the spot where there was, actually, no food there. It’s an entirely different feeling, and a very desperate one. In most cases, though, we say there’s no food when it’s really that there’s no food we want to eat.

The response? God sends snakes among the people. These snakes bit the people, and eventually the venom was fatal. Numbers 21:6 suggests that many people died, but we don’t have a clear number. The people, as is their custom and ours, cry out for God to take away the punishment for their sins.

We see a different response this time, though. Work down through Numbers 21:7-9 and it appears that the serpents are not taken away during the time the people remain at this location. Instead, God provides the remedy for the venom: the snake-on-a-stick. If people looked up at the snake, they lived. Those who were bitten but did not look up? They died.

Seems like a fairly simple suggestion. Yet I cannot help but wonder if anyone chose not to look? Died due to stubbornness more than anything else?

That is certainly the first lesson here: do not be stubborn about lifesaving options. You can live without that spleen!

There is something deeper, though, and spiritual here. There are spiritual problems and God has provided the cure for them. The first is the reality that the wages of sin are death, and we are going to get that unless we come to Jesus for forgiveness. That much is made clear by Jesus Himself in John 3 when He talks to Nicodemus.

Further, though, I think there is some applicability to more of our walk with Christ. God has often provided solutions to the things that sting us, rob us of life, or destroy our joy and peace. Instead, though, we whine and complain and bring those things around. The solution is still the same: look to the Cross, look to that which God has provided.

But we want something else. We want healers or medicines or something flashy. We want something more than turning our eyes to Jesus, fixing our eyes upon Him. This is, however, all we have.

And it is all we need.

Nerd Notes:

Note 1: The serpent is destroyed under the reign of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4) and it came to have the name Nehushtan. For an action novel that has archaeologists digging for it anyway, check out Serpent of Moses by Don Hoesel. Just remember Hibbard’s Rule #3 for Theology: Do Not Base Your Theology in Fiction.

Note 2: Do some research into the symbols of medicine. Some groups use the Caduceus, some use the Rod of Asclepius. It’s interesting. Apparently, the Rod of Asclepius was a symbol for medicine, while the Caduceus was a symbol for merchant. The Army Medical Corps took the Caduceus as a symbol to show “non-combatant” status, just in case Switzerland ever got into a war and the Red Cross wasn’t a good idea. There are divergent opinions about how these symbols have been used. What I find interesting?

The antiquity of the Greek Myths that underlie both Caduceus and the Rod of Asclepius are not older than Numbers. In fact, the evidence puts their origin younger than 1400 BC, where I would approximate the Numbers narrative. Is this a possible origin? Israel ends up at the crossroads of the Eastern Mediterranean, and would have a potential impact on Greece and Egypt post-Ramses II, as well as Rome.

Note 3: Is there something to be taken, theologically, from the death of many before the introduction of the serpent when we consider the question of what happens to those cultures who have yet to have contact with the Gospel? Or those that never did? Jesus Himself draws a parallel between Himself and the Bronze Serpent. Should we push it into that corner, that there is something to be known about people living apart from the Gospel and dying from the serpent of sin?

I’m not certain, but that’s what this section is for. Questions to ponder.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Book: Embracing Shared Ministry

Ever read a book that you wish you had read a long, long time ago? One that would have shaken up your choices years ago, and now you are uncertain how to implement the wisdom you find in the text?

This is my response to Joseph H. Hellerman’s Embracing Shared Ministry. This newer book from Kregel Ministry comes in at 313 pages, and was provided through their blog reviewer program to me.

Books like Embracing Shared Ministry are why I love being involved in book review blogging. I am generally unfamiliar with Dr. Hellerman’s work, so I would have not picked this up without a recommendation.

I am glad to have read it. Embracing Shared Ministry speaks to the need of Christian churches and organizations to decentralize the ministry they are involved in. Hellerman highlights how the Early Church spread those responsibilities across multiple people, and how that strengthened the church.

His work is no mere academic pursuit. The text of Embracing Shared Ministry is peppered with illustrations of his experience helping the church he serves to share ministry work. Further, Hellerman shares stories and lessons learned and used in his teaching work at Talbot School of Theology.

I think this book deserves a spot in the pastoral training schools of the West, where we tend to over-emphasize the soloist approach to ministry. Even in churches with a ministry team, there are frequently pulpit stars and then “others” who do the rest of the work. That model has already failed us in many ways, and Hellerman highlights some of those, and will fail us further as the years go by.

I cannot help but see Embracing Shared Ministry as a good illustration of a corrective text for the corporate-style mentality in American Christianity. While there are some churches that work from a shared approach, this idea is generally lacking. For many, I think it is that the default has been to the Pastor-CEO model and no one has really thought about it. Those are the pastors and churches that would benefit from a diligent study of this book.

For the few that are deliberately running their churches like a for-profit business and who refuse to share, embrace, or minister, this book is a threat. If your congregation reads this, they may begin to think more Biblically about ministry. And they may just insist on it.

Which would be a good thing.

October 2013: Proverbs 9

What shall we say then, brethren? If the calendar be against us, who shall be for us? I am persuaded that few free bloggers can blog as much as they wish, nor as well as they want. And frequently, life and death, trouble and ease, work and play shall separate them from the writing of blogs…

Unknown Goober Looking for an Excuse for His Neglected blog.

Now that we have that quote out of the way,

 

Proverbs 9 carries the theme of seeking wisdom. This is a great theme. Wisdom is shown as providing substance and support. All-in-all, one who reads this and does not want wisdom is clearly not right.

 

Proverbs 9:10 is our one focal verse for the day. The fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom. Think on that for a moment: the fear of YHWH.

 

This requires:

 

First, a knowledge of the covenant God of Israel. Not a vague semi-theistic worldview but knowing enough about the One True God to fear Him.

 

Second, a humility that there is someone greater than you are. Namely, the aforementioned YHWH.

 

Third, a willingness to go forward in learning, guided by YHWH and His nature.

 

From there, you go to wisdom. You can get smart a million ways, but wisdom comes in this one.

Wednesday Wanderings: Joshua 24

First of all, the material we’re covering with the kids skips the bulk of Joshua. We go straight from Joshua 10 to Joshua 24. Why? I’m guessing that a lot of conquest narrative isn’t exactly easy to teach to the elementary age group.

There is one story from that section that I do want to bring up. Joshua 22:10-34 highlights how the tribes that went back to the other side of the Jordan built an altar. That altar copied the official altar, and sparked fears of idolatry and a downright hissy fit by the in-the-land tribes.

The purpose, though, was to be a unification reminder between the two groups. This makes me wonder: how quick are we to judge the behavior of others? How rapidly do we assume they are sinning just because their behavior does not make perfect sense to us?

You have a few mentions of places where the Israelites were “unable” to drive out the inhabitants. There is a necessary understanding here regarding theology: the inability was likely due to an unwillingness. It is also possible that there were fewer Israelites than we perhaps may have thought, or the diminished numbers of independent tribes had an impact. That could be part of it: the tribes were unwilling to conquer territory they didn’t really need yet—which led to them being unable because of the judgment of God on their disobedience.

Finally, we hit Joshua 24. Joshua expresses the situation, and then gives his assessment. He recounts the history of Israel and gives it as the Word of YHWH, which means he is not simply reading a cue card. He is speaking the Divine Word, which is a big deal.

In that recitation, Joshua highlights that Abram/Abraham was truly the first of the family to follow YHWH as God exclusively, and that God called Abram out of His own will, not for anything in Abram.

Then Joshua tells the people to choose between serving local gods and serving the One True God who has brought them this far. He tells them that they will turn on God, and it would be better to simply abandon Him now than to lie to Him.

They then declare, publicly, that they will serve YHWH, the One True God for all time. But they don’t.

In fact, the book of Judges really seems to push back that they don’t really even try.

The question for the kid Bible study is How can we show we love God? The answer given is a little simple: serve, worship, and obey God. That takes fleshing out in your life—(my life, too)

How do you serve, worship, and obey God through your days?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

It’s not my fault! John 9

At the present moment, the United States government is basically shutdown because the President and the Congress cannot get along. I will not attempt to parse the exact problem, because I am almost certain that if you read this five years from now, the first sentence will be nearly accurate. Even if it’s not the budget-type of a shutdown, it’s still going to be gridlocked.

The big question is always this one: Whose fault is it? Who is responsible for this mess?

That question, though, is not unique to the United States. It is not unique to the western world. It reaches back, truly, to the Garden of Eden, but we’ve already done that. Here we have a different question. A man is suffering: he is blind, in a world without any real support for someone with that challenge.

And the disciples want to know from Jesus: Whose fault is this? Is it his? Or did his parents cause this?

Jesus, as can be expected, responds to an either-or question by taking a third option. Now, there is much here to address the existence of evil in the world, how some of the suffering we see is caused by our sin, but much of it is so that we can see the glory of God. Much of it is so that we have the opportunity to be a part of the glory of God in relieving it.

Yet something else strikes me in this passage. The disciples here make for great students of religion. There is a situation in front of them, and they want to discuss the theological ramifications of it. Here is, after all, a perfect chance to learn about the way the world works. It’s like a case study. Excellent!

We do the same thing, don’t we? We look at the news and see civil war in Syria and wonder, “Who are the good guys?” We examine immigration and parse the finer points of economics and border security. We debate government-mandated health insurance and marvel that the US hasn’t done what other countries that are going bankrupt have done for years.

In our churches, we get into the same discussions. Here’s a teen mom—what failed that she finds herself in that situation? Here’s a divorced man, an abandoned child, an unemployed father, an abused wife. And we want to figure out the causes. We discuss the ebbs and flows of fortune, and then we think of the policy we ought to have about such issues.

At the end of the day, though, the answer is not about whose fault it is. I know that we need to find systemic solutions to systemic problems, that we must both teach people to fish while feeding them fish.

I would suggest, though, that we must also do as Jesus does here: cut off the debate and help the person in pain. The disciples barely notice him, except as a teaching tool. Jesus sees him as a person in need.

How do you see people? When you see that rock star in trouble with the law? When you see that kid in trouble with the law? When you see that deacon fail?

Rather than looking first for your theological point, look at the person.

Do what you can. Then, as the situation cools, analyze it and learn what you can.

But do not overlook people in your rush to determine if it’s your fault or not. Because if you leave him blind, hurting, hungry on the road while you check your algorithm?

Then it really is your fault.

Today’s Nerd Note:

Take a look at John 9:24 and the command of the Pharisees to “Give glory to God” as they question the not-blind man. Now, take a quick look at Joshua 7:19.

This was a charge to the man to tell the truth. A few takeaways:

First, the truth brings glory to God. Deception and lies do not.

Second, the two Scriptural instances of this phrase come from interrogations regarding sin. Both involve known realities: it is known in Joshua that Achan sinned. It is known here that the man can now see. There is nothing left to debate, really.

Third, both uses seem to indicate an idea of telling the truth to clean your conscience, not to escape trouble.

Fourth, both uses show people asking questions that they think they already have the answers for.

Finally, is there cause to think that the Pharisees deliberately harken back to Achan and Joshua? It seems, generally, that the Pharisees were concerned that individual sins would bring down the nation as a whole, so are they putting the not-blind man in that same boat?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up for October 6

My apologies for the morning sermon video. The camera I use is limited to an exact recording length, and I overshot that by a couple of minutes. In self-critique, I can see where I lost those minutes earlier in the sermon, but I can’t fix that now. Hopefully, there is still some value in watching it. The whole message is present on the audio.

Morning Sermon Audio link is here:

A Smashing Faith: Judges 7:19 Oct 6 Almyra FBC

Morning Video:

Morning Outline:

October 6 AM A Smashing Faith Judges 7:19-23

Almyra FBC

Setting of the Gideon Story

Points:

1. The gathered threat

     A. To the faith

          1. Philosophies

          2. Religions

     B. To the faithful

          1. It is more likely that we are at risk than the Gospel message

          2. Martyrdom is to be respected, not pursued

          3. Stand for your fellow believers

2. The firm faithful

     A. Never as many as you'd like

     B. Always as many as you need

          1. Not to attain the result you planned

          2. Nor to attain, always, the result any other expert would present

     C. Must be willing to trust

          1. You must trust the faithful

          2. The faithful must trust you

          3. Do not allow the faithful to evade their calling

3. The bizarre plan

     A. Not to fight flesh and blood

     B. To let light shine

     C. What is the weapon?

          1. The Sword of YHWH!

          2. Which is? Ephesians 6

4. The moment of truth

     A. Smashing the jars

     B. Shining forth the light

     C. Signaling your commitment

Evening Audio is here:

Worship Acts! Judges 6 October 6

Evening Outline:

October 6 PM Worship Acts Judges 6:11-27

Almyra FBC

Point: Those who claim to have an encounter with God do not spend all their time talking merely about that encounter. They rise up and take actions based on that encounter.

Having been in the presence of God is not a lightweight experience

Friday, October 4, 2013

Singing Vegetables and Congress



This video illustrates the thinking in Washington, D.C., right now. The Democrats and Republicans think there's only two choices, and refuse to admit any other possibilities.

It's funny when it's a tomato and a cucumber. It's stupid when it's grown-ups.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Bitterness of Death: Numbers 20

According to Benjamin Franklin, there were only two certain things in life: death and taxes. While Numbers opens and closes with a census, which is about taxes, Numbers 20 is about death.

In the opening verse, Miriam, sister of Moses, dies. She had survived the Exodus and gone through the entire period of wandering in the Wilderness. Now, as the people are lining up for the final march to the Jordan River, Miriam passes away. The dearth of information is stunning here. She gets one sentence about her death and burial, and then we go on.

We go on to find the people of Israel grumbling. Let’s keep in mind that this is the generation that has been raised in the wilderness because of the preceding generation’s unfaithfulness! Yet they grumble because there is no water where they are.

This is the first part of the bitterness of death: Moses and Aaron, leaders of the people, are not granted space to grieve. The needs of the people outweigh their need for time and a little space. And this is not unlike what faces many grieving people today.

Consider this reality: a loved one dies, and your company policies give you a few days off work. Yet what happens? The world keeps going. You take a day or two to be with family, attend a funeral, and the whole time you have to wonder what’s happening at work. No, you’re not being replaced, but you are being bypassed.

No time is given for you to grieve, because the world moves on. You have to keep up, just as Moses and Aaron have to in this chapter.

The people grumble about Egypt, a land they hardly even knew, and long to return to it. This is not unusual: how many people pine for days gone by without knowing what went by in them? I think of my contemporaries who long for the days of the Puritans without thinking much about starvation—or about what would happen to them if they were counted as dissenters in those days.

The people, though, want water. Since they want water, Moses takes this up with YHWH, who commands that Moses speak to the rock in the area, that it would bring forth water. Moses, for the first time we can see in Scripture, disobeys God’s direct command. Instead of speaking, he strikes the rock.

Much theological discussion has taken place about just exactly why it was wrong for Moses to strike the rock. Was it because the rock was struck twice? Was it this or that?

While the nerd-side of me loves this stuff, it’s really a nonsensical question. Let’s rephrase it to see why: “What made Moses’ disobedience to a direct, divine command from the Almighty, so bad?” Do we really need to answer that question or is it not clear in itself? Seems clear to me.

The chapter ends with the death of Aaron. Moses now stands alone at the head of Israel. His generation is gone, and he remains. He remains with the pending judgment that he also will not enter Canaan.

Do we wonder why these are the waters of Meribah? The place of contention? It’s terrible. Death and disobedience, strife and sadness echo through these verses. These are the costs of sin, even if there is no one sin to nail down.

What, then, should we do?

Perhaps we should first and foremost learn to slow down and be aware of the needs of people around us. This alone might make a world of difference for the people in our lives. Stop, and grieve. Allow some space for the needs of others.

Second, be careful about pining for days gone by. There were great old times, but is the whole thing worth going back to?

Finally, recognize this: the future is coming. Eleazar succeeds Aaron (Numbers 20:25). A time is coming when another must take on whatever you do. That can be a time of bitterness or excitement.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book: Secrets of Dynamic Communication

When I went to college, I majored in Biblical Studies and minored in Speech. Obviously, I had a plan for what I would be in the future: someone who talk a lot. In Roy Buckelew and Steve Phillips at Ouachita, I was exposed to some of the best guidance in communication that I could imagine. So, I was interested in to pick up the revised version of Ken Davis’ Secrets of Dynamic Communication. I have read the old version, but “updated” sounded good to me.

Image 1I was greatly concerned that Secrets of Dynamic Communication would have been “updated” into an extended commercial for the SCORRE Conferences that Davis and Michael Hyatt do, and am pleased to report that it does not. While the conferences are based on the methods in Secrets, one should consider the book as primary. If you will read it, practice, and implement what you read, then attending a conference would be fun and helpful, but not critical. The conference would be awesome, but most of us can afford to buy a book. I think the conferences are beyond affordable for me.

On to the content:

Davis has made a living communicating, and he started before you could tweet/FB/Youtube your way to fame and a platform. He had to be good at it, and good at it in various venues. The overall method demonstrated in Secrets of Dynamic Communication is about focusing your efforts on the subject and then presenting it well.

This is a helpful method. Too often, speakers aim at nothing, and still hit it full on. The key secret to communication is focus, and that is the foundation of the SCORRE method detailed in Davis’ book.

Davis writes clearly and practically. Secrets of Dynamic Communication is not a book for the communications theorist. There is no detailing of interference incidence or measurement of transmission. Instead, Davis focuses on how you can know you were heard and how you can eliminate what keeps people from listening.

This is an immensely practical book, with just a few drawbacks. The biggest is that I would like to see a couple of basic online resources connected to the book. SCORRE uses a simple template for development of a speech, and I think it would be nice to place a downloadable template online. There’s a blank one in the back of the book, but you’re not likely to cut it out and duplicate it.

Additionally, I would love to see an online resource section with video links to illustrate the material. While I know that would potentially change and become obsolete, it would still be helpful starting point.

In all, though, this is a handy first-step into developing public presentation skills. On the homeschool front, high school oral communications classes could use this as their text on delivery of speeches.

I received a copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for the review.

Wednesday Wanderings: Gibeonites

The children’s lesson skips from Ai to the defeat of Adoni-Bezek and his coalition in Joshua 10. There is no examination of the Gibeonite Deception narrative in Joshua 9, which makes sense for a kid-level lesson.

There are a couple of points in the discussion of this deception worth noting. One is this: decision-makers who are in a hurry to make a decision and not worried about getting it right will get it wrong. Another is this: bad leadership leads to angry followers. Keep that in mind when you are ‘in charge:’ there is a responsibility to get it right.

Another aspect here is that we should pay attention to what God says and look beyond basic appearances. If you don’t get that yet, you really haven’t read the Bible at all, have you? God looks deeper. So should we. When we cannot, we have to trust God, not our own ideas.

What I do want to highlight here, though, is an interesting note:

Joshua 9:17 tells us that the Israelites are a three day journey from the Gibeonites. That is the time it takes to cover the distance and investigate the situation.

Now, take a look at Joshua 10:9. Marching through the night, the Israelites make it to Gibeon in one day. They show up in a hurry.

So that comes to this question: how much of a hurry to help your friends do you get into?

Because here, Joshua demonstrates that God’s people are quicker to help than they are to judge. Judgment does come—wrong is punished, but help is at hand far quicker.

Think about that next time you are in the mood to pounce on someone’s errors. Are you willing to help thrice as fast?

Then, we cover the sun standing still in the sky. Please, first of all, stop forwarding the email that NASA has proven that this happened. NASA has never done such a thing—and when we forward emails that sound cool but are false, then we look stupid and not faithful.

There is no viable naturalistic explanation for Joshua 10:13. Either God did exactly as the text said or not, but we cannot explain how it happened. There are some efforts to make this about weather or enthusiasm, but I just don’t get it.

Last comment: I really, really want to find a copy of the Book of Jashar. Seriously, how great of an archaeological find would that be?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Light, Freedom, Life: John 8

The pager goes off. I stumble off the bed, grab my Motorola Startac, and call in to the phone center. An hour and a half later, I’m at the delivery entrance of a hospital in a non-descript blue van. I meet the technician, who helps me load up, and I’m about to head back to Arkadelphia. In the mirror at the morgue, I see my reflection.

My hair is out of whack, badly. My shirt is buttoned one-off, I’ve forgotten my belt, and my zipper is down. In short, I look more awful than normal. Why?

In the interest of sparing my roommate, I had gotten dressed to respond to the call in the dark. I had done as best I could without any light. I had then driven, in the dark of the early morning hours, without stopping to even think about how I looked. The morgue tech was apparently so used to people looking like death that he said nothing. Quickly, I ducked into the men’s room, straightened my appearance out, and headed down the road.

Light, you see, is a powerful tool. Light reveals the way things are. It may be the way things are in the world around us, or the way we are. Light reveals. Science teaches us that light also disinfects, and experience tells me that bugs and other icky things tend to prefer dark places. Light is wonderful.

Light allows us to walk in freedom as well. This is why open government policies are referred to as “Sunshine Laws.” They expose the deeds that occur in darkness, and most freedom-killing actions occur in the darkness. It is in the dark backrooms that conspiracies of governments and businesses occur; darkness covers the criminal; shadows cloak even the dark hero who rejects the laws. Freedom is crushed from the shadows, from the diners to the beer halls to the counsels of the evil one.

Freedom is crushed by others from the dark, but it is truly destroyed within us from our own darkness. We carry darkness in our own hearts that is hard to overcome, and that darkness oozes out from within to destroy our freedom to follow God. It keeps us bound to our sin, bound to our past, and blind to the Light of the World.

With that freedom shrouded in the darkness, light cannot be life-giving. In courses I don’t remember taking, in grades I know I was in for elementary school, I know we learned that our biological life gets all of its energy from the Sun. I remember reading how astounded scientists were to find life at deep-ocean vents that existed without light, surviving only based on heat. That biology discussion can come later, but suffice it to say that you and I have physical life only because of light.

That life is also maintained and improved by light. Ever walked through a forest so dense it was dark in the daytime? It can be terrifying—I’ve done it. You trip over so many things, you stumble, you crash, you get pains. I would rather spend twenty miles in open country than five in dense forest. It’s just not pleasant. Even worse would be living in a cave with no hope of coming out for an interminable period of time. (There is a documentary coming out soon about a group of Jews who did this to survive the Holocaust. I can’t find the link, but that looks worth seeing.)

Light, freedom, and life. These all tie together with the underlying principle of truth. Truth, from a Bible-centered view, is not a negotiable construct. It is something unchanging, something fundamental. This is something that our modern philosophy thinks can only be found in a few scientific principles and logic rules, like gravity and non-contradiction.

For the Christian, though, truth is known in a person. John 8 gives us the reality: truth is found in Jesus, and if we know Him we have the Truth. The Truth that brings life, the life that brings freedom, the life lived in the light.

This is the message of the Gospel of John: the Light of Christ is greater than the darkness of the world. The Light shines through Jesus. Through the signs of His miracles. Through the Cross. Through the Empty Tomb. This is what John wants us to see: Jesus.

What about our lives? In the midst of a failing nation, in the midst of chaos rising, are we focused on the light? It does not originate from Capitol Hill or the White House. It does not even originate from the church or the family. He is the Origin, and if we as His people are not seeing him as the ever-fixed mark that we follow, what good are we?

Not much good at all.

Light up the world by following the One who is Light, Life, Freedom, and Truth.

Today’s Nerd Note:

John 7:53-8:11. This is a great story. It is a marvelous example of grace and truth: no condemnation, but sin is to be abandoned. It also paints the older Pharisees in a better light.

It’s the only example we have of Jesus during the Incarnation writing. That does not mean He only does so here. Just that we only have this example.

I have preached this passage. I have taught this passage. I have used this passage to bridge tense situations in churches. I have based restoring people and rebuilding fellowship on these exact verses. I love this passage.

But if you have a modern Bible translation, it’s in italics or it’s in brackets or it’s not even there. Why? Because there are some major questions from the science of Biblical textual reconstruction about it. There are some very valid reasons why the experts in original Greek manuscripts would remove this passage.

I agree with Daniel Wallace’s major point that the emotional attachment to this passage is the reason it remains (See The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts through iTunesU or other sources.) I am not quite certain where to go with the academic matters. I see the evidence that would place the passage more in the Synoptics, and in a vacuum would likely print Bibles with the passage definitely set aside as material possible, rather than material definite.

Yet we do not do Biblical study in a vacuum. Theology bears weight on the methods we bring to the text, even though the text itself informs theology. There is no theology in this, the pericopae adulterae that is divergent from the mainstream of theology in the rest of the life of Christ.

There is also the question of our theology of Bible transmission and preservation. In all, I know that the Greek nerd in me says to excise the passage. My favorite Early Church Father, Chrysostom, is one of many who skip straight from John 7:52 to John 8:12. (actually, everybody but Didymus the Blind do that, and Didymus doesn’t quote the story quite the same.)

But I’m vested here, emotionally, and wonder if we hurt ourselves theologically by claiming that the church had a faulty text for a thousand years and we finally fixed it. I’m uncertain, and I’m certainly uncommitted. If I were preaching through John, I would preach this passage and likely not fully address this unless someone asked.

Sermon and Service Recap for November 8

Looks like I forgot to post this! Thank you!