Friday, November 29, 2013

Book: The War on Christmas

The War on Christmas, by Bodie Hodge, was a good read in general. It's not without fault, but for the Christian exploring the origins of modern American Christmas celebrations, it's a handy resource.

What's good?

1. Simple reason: I'm a fan of attention-holding full-color books. The War on Christmas is one of these, and it's not overdone.

2. Historical reason: Hodge admits that the dating of the birth of Jesus at December 25th is tenuous at best. This is part of the overall effort in The War on Christmas to clarify what is and isn't Biblically accurate. By doing so, Hodge presents what parts of the Christmas "experience" we should and should not be willing to be picky about.

3. Reading reason: it's an easy, short read.

4. Theological reason: Hodge is clearly intent on only standing firmly on the Scripture here, rather than reaching out into the Victorian or traditional realm for requirements.

What's not-so-good?

1. North Pole Reason: while acknowledging that parents are responsible for deciding what to teach their kids regarding the American Santa Legend, Hodge flat-out calls it a lie. This means that if parents have taught their kids about Santa (or, perhaps Grandparents have,) they had best not let the kids read this book, because they will see their parents called liars. That's unhelpful, in my mind, for a book that otherwise would be a great family resource. It's a potential wedge in a family for a child to call Grandma and ask her why she lied about Santa.

2. Same song, different verse reason: Hodge has written extensively, and works with, Answers in Genesis, a ministry focused on demonstrating why the Biblical account of Creation is accurate. I like most of that work. I do not see the need to bring up the particulars of Young Earth Creationism in the Christmas story. On the one hand, The War on Christmas strives to be Biblical, while at the same time trying to connect Roman/Greek celebrations to Genesis to make a point. And those connections are sketchy. Save that for a more detailed account, rather than a simple approach book like this.

All-in-all, The War on Christmas touches briefly into all the areas surrounding the modern American Christmas and how those relate to a viable interpretation of the Bible. It's not perfect, but it's a worthwhile read.

(free book in exchange for the review)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shopping Ideas for 2013

Every year around Christmas, I try and give you a few suggestions about ways to have your gift-giving be more than just corporate fodder. Not that buying from super-mega-giant corporations is completely evil, but there just might be a few ways to give meaning along with presents this year.

  • First, an idea that you’ve probably seen from others, but it’s new to my thinking this year. If you’re familiar with Kickstarter or Indiegogo, then you know how this works. A person or group has an idea, but instead of going to the bank or stock market for money, they take an appeal straight to the world for funding. If you like it, you can chip in for the idea. Sometimes there’s a freebie or a gift, but it’s about funding the idea. The Christmas gift suggestion? Pick a great project that your friends, family, or enemies would get behind, and support it.

Use the freebies/thank yous as gifts, and fill out a card explaining what you did and why. For example, take this idea:

Look at the options, and click through to make it happen. You do your own examination of worthiness, because it’s your risk. But take a gander at some of these ideas. You can put a unique T-shirt or keychain under the tree, and then have a really great story to go with it.

Why? because WorldCrafts provides job opportunities to folks that have limited options around the world. Want to provide ongoing help to those who have escaped human trafficking? Check their Set1Free section.

Those are just some general ideas. Take a look, before the madness sets in at the mall!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 26 2013 by Doug

Readers: I’m still open to adding a few to the daily Proverbs contemplation. Get in touch at doug (at) doughibbard.com

Proverbs 26 opens with 12 verses about fools. Then Solomon moves on to sluggards, madmen, and gossips. So, the rest of the chapter deals with fools as well. Just different sorts of fools.

 

The difficulty, I think, that we have with this passage is that fools tend to appear successful. Why would you have to warn not to honor a fool if all a fool could do is fail? Why point out the danger in hiring fools?

 

Quite simply, because fools can manage to look good, nay even effective, and still be fools. Consider, for example, that November 26, 1095, Pope Urban II preached the sermon that kicked off the Crusades.

 

Remarkably effective sermon—yet astoundingly foolish! Consider the difficulties and atrocities that followed it. Consider the results. Yet here was an effective sermon.

 

We must take the warnings in Proverbs about fools seriously. The fool manages to obtain political office. I think this is nearly unavoidable in a republic: there will always be a few fools in the Legislatures, Congresses, and Administrations of this nation. There will be fools in the Judicial Branch.

 

This is actually the purpose of separation of powers in the government, and why it is supposed to be possible to gridlock the operation. It prevents fools from doing foolish things without restraint.

 

However, of greater concern to me is the number of fools within the pulpits of our churches. Mind you, I think some allegedly Christian groups have become so distant from Scripture that the fool is the norm, rather than the exception.

 

Yet within Evangelical circles, especially Baptist circles, we should be on our guard. Right now, the Fool is the exception. The typical minister may be tired, may not be exciting, but rarely is he a fool.

 

But we let the Fool come in, preach to big crowds, write books. He writes books, holds conferences, and draws a bigger and bigger influence circle. Yet he wounds, and damages, and harms, and destroys. Because he is a fool, not a wise man.

 

My fellow Believers, we must recapture our defense against the Fool. Stop buying. Stop listening. Stop honoring the partial good—realize that a V-8 engine that misses on 4 cylinders needs fixed, not used for the half-power it gives.

 

And stop suffering fools so readily.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up November 25

A couple of quick notes: 1) this is the last sermon before Advent, when we’ll really turn toward the manger and look hard at the purpose of the Incarnation. 2) I am hoping in the coming months to work on design around here, so if you have any useful hints on blog layouts, let me know.

  • Morning Sermon

Audio Link is here

Outline:

November 24 AM: Lessons from the Pilgrims

I. Bloom where you are planted: 1 Corinthians 10:31/Story of Philip the Evangelist

II. Make friends with the people you find: Acts 16:14-15/Lydia

III. Don't just eat the fish: Proverbs 14:4, Ecclesiastes 11

IV. Mandating work and providing help are not contradictory 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and 1 Thessalonians 4:11, and James 1:26-27 and James 2:16

V. Celebrate what God does: Psalms. The whole bloomin' lot of them. And Revelation

VI. Remembering the good more than bad isn't always a bad thing. Take a look at Chronicles and compare it with Kings.

Video:

November 24 AM Lessons from the Pilgrims from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

  • Evening Sermon

Audio Link is here (I’m not sure what happened—it’s in a different format. My tech guy needs a clue.) (If you’re wondering, I am my tech guy.)

Outline:

Luke 17:11-19 Thankful: November 24 PM

We are:

1. Thankful

2. Gratitude puts us in harmony with God

3. Gratitude is the responsibility of the people of God

4. Gratitude demonstrates faith

November 24 PM Sermon: Thankfulness from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Book: Humility

Today’s book addresses one of the classic questions: can you write a book on humility and not be arrogant for doing so?

History is one of the greatest teachers of virtue, and biography a specialist in that field. In his work Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue, David J. Bobb hands the classroom over to this great teacher. Bobb finds a need for a lesson in humility and presents his case here.

Wisely, Bobb does not attempt to himself as the epitome of humility. Neither does he argue the concepts from a vacuum. Rather, he takes the reader through the lives of great people from history to enlighten us.

Before going into the five figures examined, Bobb first examines how Benjamin Franklin pursued humility. He widens Franklin’s pursuit of humility to point out how the Founders of our nation saw the need for humility to weave into the warp and woof of our nation.

Humility’’s chapter on Jesus and Socrates was particularly interesting to me. These two are often mentioned together, and Bobb contrasted their lives well. He then went on to examine how the preaching of Jesus on humility has endured better than Socrates’ views on pride, though both still contend for our affection.

The five mini-biographies come from two periods in American History. The first three are from the Founding Era, the others from the Abolition/Civil War Era. Humility brings George Washington, James Madison, and Abigail Adams from the era of our national beginning.

I found Madison’s biography the most enlightening of the three, thought that’s likely due to ignorance of his character. I knew he lived and was the Father of the Constitution, but little else. Abigail Adams I have read more about, and Washington is certainly well known.

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln represent the Civil War and Abolition Era in our nation. Their stories are familiar to me, but it was enlightening to see how Bobb drew out lessons in humility specifically.

It is quite obvious on reading Humility that Bobb favors a Christian worldview, and this is certainly pleasing to me. If you would rather draw ethics from a source alien to that idea, you’ll dislike this book.

In all, this book gives a quick glance at biographical history to make a point. You’ll profit even more by looking through the recommended readings and broadening your knowledge. It is truly a shame that good book like this one is hampered by the publisher’s use of Endnotes over Footnotes—someday I’m going to bill a book maker for the papercuts I get from their Endnotes.

I received a copy of this book free through Booksneeze. Search their website for details.

November 20 by Doug

I’m going to just hit Proverbs 20:11 and make a few observations.

 

We have recently gotten my son started in Cub Scouts. It’s part of our effort to make sure that he learns to work together with people of different backgrounds, races, and religions to accomplish goals. The pack he’s in is a remarkably good start for that, considering just how ethnically segregated many places still feel. There are boys of various ages, races, and faiths in the group. It’s a good thing.

 

After a few meetings, though, he and I have had some conversations about behavior in meetings. His peers haven’t really been bad—they’ve been boys who are sitting down and following rules all day in school, so they are ready to let off steam and move around in the evenings. He has an advantage over them, because he gets to play and let off a lot more boy-energy in the afternoons when he gets his schoolwork done.

 

So, he’s usually a little more quiet and still when it’s lesson time. Now, I of course remember that when I was his age, we all sat quiet and still and only spoke when spoken to, but the Dark Ages were a different time. (After all, I used to have a brother, but he spoke when not spoken to, and was fed to the alligators. This is as true as the perfect behavior of my generation at that age.)

 

The challenge for him is that other kids are drawing more immediate attention to themselves. The shout answers, push to the front of the line, and so forth. He was feeling unnoticed for a while, but then both his den leader and his father, separately, pointed out a few good things we had seen. His den leader is being remarkable about asking him questions directly and drawing him into conversation—it actually makes me glad we had to go out of Almyra to find a pack, because he’s having to meet new people.

 

Ultimately, though, he’s learning to rely on the truth of Proverbs 20:11 through this. If he wants to be known, he should focus on being himself and doing what he knows is right. This is the better path to distinguishing himself than yelling and shoving. True, those behaviors get attention, but he’s learning to channel his desires to wanting to be distinguished, not to get attention.

 

In all, this is a capsule of what Proverbs 20:11 speaks to. I think one of our broader societal issues is that we do not look for those who distinguish themselves by pure and right conduct. We look for those who draw attention through activity. The former should be our celebrated examples, and not the latter.

 

This is especially true in Christian circles, both the dangerous trend and the need for correction. Our rising stars and shining examples should be the men and women who distinguished themselves by doing right, not those who sought fame, fortune, and glory.

 

Proverbs comes from the slightly different place of being addressed to someone who could not avoid the spotlight—being born royalty will do that. Even so, Solomon instructed that righteousness is more important than even that birthright. (I know, Solomon didn’t do so well with that himself.) Let us remember that even more as we consider our futures and decisions.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book: The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

Pilgrims. Indians. Corn plants with three little fishes around them. Big hats with buckles on them. A blunderbuss or two, stacked with bows and arrows.

All of these are the images of the first Thanksgiving from our folklore. Folklore, though, is not quite history. Robert Tracy McKenzie’s The First Thanksgiving attempts not so much to set the record straight, but to examine what the record actually is. The 200 pages of The First Thanksgiving do not come from an amateur. Dr. McKenzie is a professor of history at Wheaton College and has written on other aspects of American history. Being at Wheaton does reveal that McKenzie comes from a generally evangelical Christian viewpoint, but it is quite helpful to know the ground a book was written on.

The First Thanksgiving presents itself as “What the real story tells us about loving God and learning from history.” McKenzie sets out not destroy the people who founded the Plymouth Colony of 1620, but simply to reshape their parade floats back into the likeness of men instead of gods.

To accomplish this, though, The First Thanksgiving must first address some questions about the process of history itself. McKenzie wishes his work to be useful outside of the academic classroom, so he begins essentially with methods training in history. As with all good methods lectures, these are illustrated with practical moments. For the sake of developing the Thanksgiving theme, all of the illustrative material relates to the examination of history at Plymouth.

The whole of The First Thanksgiving resounds with this style of writing. The first two chapters are more about methods than the latter six, but the material is still in balance. I find this the greatest strength of the book: one can use this as an upper-level study in how to do history, regardless of the season.

McKenzie goes to great lengths in The First Thanksgiving to show how and why history peels back legend and folklore. He also draws the distinctions between the things we know, things we think, and things we suppose. By tracing the development of the legendary Thanksgiving, he illustrates how poorly conceived history can obscure knowledge of reality.

He goes on to show how reality is a much better teacher for us. One aspect of The First Thanksgiving is how we can learn about loving God, and I would argue that a larger cover would have allowed him to say also how we learn about God’s love for us. Examining this area requires McKenzie to summarize the theological development of the Puritans that became the Pilgrims. Theology ties together with the real story to demonstrate how we can learn both about God (theology) and about events (history), all while drawing closer to God through truth (devotion).

Even though McKenzie has tarnished a few of my childhood play memories, The First Thanksgiving is a valuable resource for learning what we do actually *know* about that first feast. It is also a valuable resource for understanding how we do history.

If I could expand or adjust The First Thanksgiving, the one more chapter I would like to see is a better treatment of how the modern Thanksgiving came to be. There are some mentions of how the Lincoln-proclaimed Thanksgiving of 1863 was the actual institution of what we presently observe, but I would like a fuller explanation. Perhaps next year will see a book The Next Thanksgiving, examining what our current celebrations entail.

Still, that’s a fault more based in the limitations of publication and timing. After all, the title The First Thanksgiving is likely to hamper February sales, though it should not.

Believing for understanding: John 14

The Passage:

John 14 contains Jesus teaching during His last night before the Crucifixion. Throughout this chapter, He’s wrapping up the last items the disciples need to hear before they have a very, very bad weekend. Well, until Sunday.

Jesus is even upfront with this idea in John 14:29. He teaches through the coming of the Comforter and the idea of His return so that the disciples will believe when it happens. He further instructs them to be aware of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The teaching on the coming of the Spirit strains my belief in the adequacy of Scripture. I want to know more, but this is what we’ve got: The Holy Spirit is coming with a primary role of reminding of God’s Truth.

We have to keep that in its context. The bulk of the chapter is dedicated to either encouraging the disciples with the hope of His return, or reminding them to obey His commandments. We find other works of the Holy Spirit in different parts of the New Testament, but here we find just those two. I suggest that the primary action of the Spirit expected by the disciples would have been remembering what Jesus said and hope about His return. That is not to exclude other work of the Spirit—I think Scripture is certainly clear that no one comes to saving faith without the work of the Spirit.

The Passage for Us:

Much of what Jesus teaches here is not abundantly clear, and a decent amount of it is nearly illogical from our perspective. It gets harder to fit into a nice, neat box when we consider that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter in this passage, is as much God as Jesus is. Who is as much God as God the Father is, and that both of them are equal in eternality and deity right there with the Holy Spirit.

It took a couple hundred years to reach the conclusion that going ahead and making the word Trinity to describe this reality was okay, even though the word wasn’t present in Scripture. Even to this day, the great challenge for a theology student is to learn to explain the Trinity. Most of us don’t even fully understand the idea, so it’s a bit of a challenge to explain.

This is where we get into things we believe more than we understand. Anselm of Canterbury (11th century) put it this way: credo ut intelligam, which is “I believe so that I understand.” At least, I believe that’s what the Latin says, so I understand it.

This is part of the message of John 14: some things, we believe to be true even though we do not understand them.

A further example in this passage are Jesus’ words that equate love for Him and keeping His commandments. I believe heartily that we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works. Yet works are an inescapable part of the evidence of our salvation and relationship with Jesus. We believe it, and slowly our understanding matures.

I think this reveals a danger in our youth-addicted culture. We let people teach who have no maturity, just facts, and the end-result is a lack of understanding based in belief. That might not be quite accurate, but I see the possibility.

What else do we see here?

That Jesus will not leave us alone, and that He will not leave us abandoned. This is the greatest hope: that He is coming back, and that we are not left unattended in the meanwhile.

That’s really, really good news. And we should be thankful for it more and more.

Today’s Nerd Note: As if credo ut intelligam wasn’t nerdy enough? Seriously?

Here are some nerd thoughts: catch who wants to know where Jesus is going: it’s Thomas. Pick on “Doubting Thomas” all you want, but he asks questions that are worth having recorded in inspired Scripture, and he asks the same questions many of us do.

Also note the “Get up, let us go from here” that finishes the chapter. The night is full of motion and action—not set-piece teaching, but progress toward the goal. Which is the Cross and our redemption.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up for November 17

Good morning one and all!

Morning Sermon from November 17:

November 17 AM from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Audio Link is here: November 17 AM Hebrews 13

There’s no outline for the morning sermon.

Evening Sermon from November 17:

November 17 PM from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Audio link is here: November 17 PM Psalm 149

Psalm 149

I. Be glad in our Creator--why we learn about creation!

II. Praise with dancing--why we ought to dance

III. Beautify with salvation--no ugly Christians!

IV. Vengeance through the Word--the spread of the Word of God, defeating the enemies of God by the power of God

Also, the Youtube Video of the Ohio State Marching Band referenced in the sermon is here:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November 14 2013 by Doug

I’m late. I’ll post something quickly and pretend that it’s really awesome, when it may just be something I’ve said a zillion times before. Yep, that’s the plan of the unprepared blogger, preacher, student, and so forth.

 

Here it is:

 

Proverbs 14. Two major themes: the elimination of middle ground, and the obvious things we miss by walking through life blind.

 

Elimination of middle ground? Take the first verse. The foolish woman tears down the house. The wise woman builds it. Yes, it can apply literally about the structure, but it applies more widely about the family.

 

And there’s no “the foolish woman might just be in a holding pattern.” It’s either destruction or growth. Why?

 

Because you either fear YHWH or you don’t. If you do fear YHWH and strive to serve God, through the Spirit, bought by the blood of Jesus, then you are growing in wisdom, even if slowly. If you do not fear YHWH and reject God’s Word and plan, then you are foolish.

 

So, you’re either building or destroying. The no-middle-ground viewpoint resounds in this chapter.

 

The other aspect is the painfully obvious. You can have a clean manger or the wealth that comes from the ox (Proverbs 14:4). Duh. But we want both. We want clean carpet and un-tape-damaged walls in our church. And we want children to come. Guess what?

 

We want everyone clean and neat, but we also want to eat—and where do farmers work? In the dirt. You cannot always have clean and neat and what you need.

 

Parents, take heed: your house can have nice things. It can also have children. Sometimes, it can’t have both. If it’s a thing, it can sit in the attic and you’ve lost nothing. It’s worth more as an antique, or you didn’t need it so get rid of it. Let your home have children instead of things.

 

In all, this chapter is practical, though you might think it’s dully predictable. That’s part of Wisdom Literature, though: full of words you know but you don’t do.

 

Go do it. Quit wasting time.

Cursing Yourself: Numbers 25

The Israelites have just finished up surviving Balak’s attempts to hire in a curse or two from famed religious practitioner Balaam. See these comments on those stories: Curses, Foiled Again, Only His Words, and Take a Hint! Israel has been protected by God Almighty from a threat they do not even know exists—Balak’s attempt to manipulate the spiritual realm against them.

Having passed through this situation, one expects to find the Israelites either passing around Balak’s territory or conquering it. A look at the map shows that going around, or possibly through, is more likely. Balak’s territory of Moab is not really part of the Promised Land and the Israelites really just need to get around it to Canaan.

Except while they are camped out, someone has an idea. A horrid idea if you’re an Israelite, and a great idea if you’re a Moabite. The idea? Something like this: “Let’s try and get those Israelites to join us in a few wild parties, entice them with pseudo-religion, and hook up with us. Then they and us will have much more in common.”

Unfortunately, it works. The people of Israel “play the harlot” with the daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:1). This is not just about sex, though sexual immorality is the visible problem. The Israelites join the Moabites for some sex-focused worship of fertility gods, and defy the One True God in both morals and worship.

The end result? A curse comes on the people of Israel. They have just spent the last three chapters avoiding a curse from outside, and they curse themselves by their disobedience.

Before you drop back and shout “Stupid Israelites!” with me, I think we should examine ourselves. I am a firm believer that the narratives of the Old Testament are historically accurate, but I find more and more the “history” sections are almost parallel prophetic for the ages that have followed. Both people and nations have walked the path of Israel from bondage, delivered by God to freedom, and then straight back into disobedience.

We do it, too. God protects us and then we crash it. How?

Personally: it starts with salvation. We are saved from sin, hell, death, and all the lesser issues connected with those. We are saved into a right relationship with God. We are free from the curse of sin and the curse of Law-keeping to please God. Then we walk right back into some of the same problem habits we had before.

I am not talking here about our typical struggles with sin, the times we fight temptation and lose. I’m talking about how we will walk straightways into something we know is wrong—and just do it anyway. Then we wonder why our prayers seem empty or the Bible, the Word of the Living God, seems dull.

Churches: Guess what? Churches do this too. God establishes a church to witness to the power of the Gospel, and to share that Gospel. Then we bog it down. We bog it down with ‘must-do’ programs. We bog it down with ethnic stereotypes.  We turn the bogs into curses by locking into bad ideas and making them the rule.

The guitar becomes a curse, the organ, the homogeneous unit principle, when they prevent us from seeing what God is doing in the lives of people. When they keep us from listening clearly to His Word.

Nations: Does this need explanation? How God can provide a nation deliverance from one set of problems, and then the freedom is taken for licensure, and then immorality destroys? How a nation might learn from godly people the value of education, the importance of distributing power, the need to keep laws slow in their passage, and then discard it?

It often happens that a nation or other group of people takes the idea that God made us all to mean that all of us are good—and therefore, all to be trusted unless they prove otherwise. The mistake is that we are all fallen, all warped by sin, and it takes the power of God to bring us to life. Apart from Christ, there is no good, for we as people have buried the imago Dei under layers of death. The curse follows our actions.

Corruption. It strikes up and down cultures, across the lines of history. Balak and his people trapped the Israelites with it. In fact, Balaam seems to have been involved in suggesting the idea! He knew that God would never curse the Israelites, but that God’s discipline falls on His people when they need it.

Let us avoid the same trap!

Today’s Nerd Note: Numbers 25:10-18 records the sundering of relations between Israel and Midian. Apparently, overall, the Midianites did not follow in Jethro’s footsteps. Instead, they partnered with the wicked Moabites and were part of the trap at Peor.

It appears that Phinehas is possibly overreacting here. Killing two people for sexual immorality? Yet he was defending the people at large from a bigger curse.

I would argue that execution for such things is not appropriate in this time frame. After all, there is rightly a separation between church and state. (There are wrong-headed applications of that concept aplenty, but it’s a good concept.)

However, the zeal of Phinehas is woefully absent from our modern Christian life. Modern religious leaders take to bed their adultery with this age and we say nothing. Even worse, they take to bed their sexual immoralities or defend those who are wickedly immoral, and we say nothing. Or we defend them from overzealous attacks.

Phinehas has none of that. He is zealous that YHWH not be defamed any longer. The wicked will fall. There will be no child-sacrifice like the Moabites. There will be no skirt-chasing. No compromise.

Should we not seek the same in religious leaders? No child sacrifice: neither literal nor by allowing their abuse. No skirt-chasing: neither in body or mind, in practice or theology. No compromise: right is right. Quit trying to shade it on the edges.

It remains remarkable that seminaries and their faculties will cite, encourage, and endorse people who cannot keep a moral line while harshly grading students who are a shade off-Turabian. It happened when I was a student, and it rather obviously continues to this day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book:Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret

Today’s book is sponsored by the ever-growing Cross-Focused Reviews. Need some book publicity? Hit Shaun up and see what he can do.

I’ll start you with the video book trailer:

Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret by Larry Osborne is a book. There. That’s not much of an innovative label, but then again I have the fear of failure that Osborne references so very often in his text. That fear of not getting it right that hampers a person from doing anything or taking any risk.

Innovation's Dirty Little Secret by Larry OsborneThat is, I suppose, a spoiler for Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret, but it’s not a plot book, so I’m unconcerned. The real purpose of Osborne’s work here is to present techniques and ideas for how to get over that fear. With 172 pages, he has time enough to address the issue but not enough time to beat it to death. (Having just read two 400+ page books on leadership, I’ve seen beaten to death on the subject.)

My fundamental concern with Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret is that, with Osborne writing as a pastor, his book has turned out to be a little too much church for business world, and a little too much business for the church world. His ideas are solid in terms of the innovation and implementation of change, but his personal experience backing it mostly comes from religious work.

And throughout Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret he does not truly justify the changes made in church behaviors in Scripture. They are justified as being necessary innovations for the times, but not as being grounded in a faith that is two millennia old. This creates a tension for use of Osborne’s work in training/challenging church leaders: his paradigm is business driven, and the church should function from a different view.

From a business perspective, though, it is hard to define hard parallels between church work and the business world. It is one thing to define a vision for a church and get buy-in from donors and volunteers who trust you or see the eternal significance. It is quite different to define a business vision and get the same support from those who are uncertain they’ll get their money back or who will not reap the same benefits that you will as the boss.

In all, it feels like Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret tries to be a church/non-profit redevelopment book and be a business start-up guide and be a business survival guide. And it falls a little short on all counts for trying to hit three birds with one shot.

Is it a bad book? No. Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret is at its best when being considered by people of faith who are looking to start out on a new enterprise in life. There is encouragement to keep going after failure, suggestions for how to present your idea, and tips for working through what to do next.

The most helpful portion of Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret is Osborne’s guidelines for having an exit strategy. It’s been a challenge for everyone, from Cub Scout popcorn-sellers to the United States government, to have a clear cut way of ending involvement in a new idea. Sometimes it’s because the idea shows itself bad, and sometimes it’s just time to move on.

Either way, if you are a leader and are wanting to have a better plan for when things go wrong, Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret can be helpful. It’s good, but it’s not quite the only book you’ll ever need.

Admittedly, I was given a copy of this book, but obviously I’m not throwing my concerns away to keep getting more books. Check this site for links to other reviews for other opinions.

Wednesday Wanderings: Samson

We’re still in a section of Judges that I have recently preached, so I’ll link you back there first: http://www.doughibbard.com/2013/11/sermon-wrap-up-for-november-3.html

Now, on to today’s thoughts regarding Samson.

First, I find it interesting more and more how we tell Bible stories to children. Looking at the Gospel Project material that we are using, there are parts left out, and that’s often the case. For example, we don’t children the parts about Samson’s first fiancé being ‘given’ to the best man—or her and her father’s subsequent murder by angry mob.

Not that I think we need to bury children with such evil, but I think something is to be said for being careful not to make heroes of people for kids that we then deflate when they are adults. Or to sugarcoat them. Perhaps they are best left untold. Or done with what VeggieTales did with David and Bathsheba, and make a fairytale that covers the material differently. Kids can put together that King George’s rubber ducks were a stand-in for King David’s many wives. When they’re teenagers. You can learn the lesson without destroying a kid’s innocence.

Just a rambling there, but I think there’s got to be a better approach, or at least a more balanced one.

Second, Samson’s life sure seems to come back to missed opportunities and what-might-have-beens. He was distracted by his immediate needs and desires, driven by them even.

It’s a call for moderation in our lives. And for self-control.

Third, there’s the lesson here about being careful who you trust. There is not a single participant in this narrative that is trustworthy, except the Angel of the Lord. And He’s in and out pretty quickly.

Parents turn out less than trustworthy, family, spouses, friends, fellow countrymen. It’s just a mess. Trust the trustworthy—and verify as needed.

Fourth, there’s the whole Angel of YHWH and identity thing. Especially considering the “What is your name?” “Why ask? It is incomprehensible.” (Judges 13:17-18)

When you look at this, “incomprehensible” is the same word in Hebrew as “wonderful.” Or “Wonderful” as in Isaiah 9:6. Just an interesting set of words here.

Fifth, why does Samson lose his strength? DISOBEDIENCE. The haircut was the image of that—the final straw in the sack, so to speak.

Sixth, I remember being taught as a kid that Samson told the boy who brought him in to run away. But that’s not in the text. The boy, first of all, could have been a teenager and not a small kid. Second, he’s likely the son of one of the leaders of the Philistines. Probably he never left, and died with the Philistines.

Finally, Samson has half the judgeship span of the previous judge, and far less of the effectiveness. Yet he is the most ‘perfect’ of the judges: heroic in battle, attractive to women, strong…

Of all the judges, he’d win in an American election hands-down. What does that say of us?

November 13, 2013 by Doug

Author’s Note: This blog was initially conceived as a group project. I’m down a few group members. Anyone interested? Email doug @ doughibbard.com with the subject line “Proverbs Blog” and tell me you want to and why you should. I’m after a few people to share 250-400 words about Proverbs, with the goal being the chapter connected to the day—Proverbs 13 on the 13th of the month. Why that? Just for organization’s sake. Not much in it for you but the challenge and the link-backs to your own writings for a little bit more traffic.

I will consider any Bible believing Christian who would like to contribute.

A consistent refrain of Proverbs 13 is discipline. Discipline, as in choosing to do what needs doing whether or not you want to. For if you do not have this discipline, you will have the other type: negative consequences for failing to do what needed to be done.

 

How is discipline the refrain of Proverbs 13?

 

Proverbs 13:11 reflects on the value of wealth by labor compared to the loss of fraud. I think this is directed at material wealth but also applies to mental wealth—what good is your cheat sheet? None. But what of those things you truly study?

 

Proverbs 13:14 reminds us to listen to the wise—and it’s important to remember that we’re not always the wise.

 

A note is important for Proverbs 13:23 about the fallow ground of the poor: it is sometimes that the poor have not worked (fallow being unplanted) and so remain poor, but it is often that injustice has hampered their efforts. Consider this: are the poor of this verse not planting because they are lazy or because they have no seed? Perhaps injustice blocks their access to raw material from which to work.

 

Realize this: nearly every family farmer in this country depends on banks and finance companies fronting the money for them to farm this season. It is from those loans that seed, fertilizer, fuel, and farmhand wages are paid for. Now, let a finance company take a dislike to a farmer, or triple their criteria for a loan. The most hardworking men I know would find themselves poor, with unplanted ground! Not for laziness but for injustice.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Books: The Dinah Harris Mysteries

Today, I’d like to pull of the shelf and mention to you Julie Cave’s Dinah Harris Mysteries series. All together, they look like this: http://juliecave.nlpgblogs.com/files/2011/09/header_books.png

I’ve linked Julie Cave’s website to the picture you see to the left. She’s also a blog writer, and has some great stuff on her website. Plus, you can purchase the series through her site and show some additional support. Her blog’s a little out of date—maybe because she’s in Australia and it’s not quite now there yet Smile

The Dinah Harris Mysteries is a trilogy of stories that center on, you guessed it, Dinah Harris. Harris begins the series as an alcoholic FBI agent, and her work takes her through a journey both professional and personal. By the end of it all, at least one of these will change. Of course, the challenge of commending good fiction to you is that I would hate to crash the plot.

The Dinah Harris Mysteries involve investigations of crimes targeting Bible-centered Christians. At least one case digs into the darker side of church reality: there are people that use the church to harm others, and in this case, the perpetrator was a victim first.

Overall, the plotlines are the right balance of intriguing without pulling insane twists out of thin air. I might quibble with the idea that someone would kill another over Creationism, for example, but Cave has researched her work and sees it as possible. There are definitely points like this where I think it’s important to separate the fiction from reality.

The Dinah Harris Mysteries has the benefit of addressing life from a Christian perspective. The characters are realistic: Harris is no perfect person, although there is a preacher-type who seems to lack flaws. Overall, though, the primary characters go through struggles rather than fall into the “super-Christian” category.

I liked these stories, even though I would not characterize the reading as very challenging. Each novel was engaging enough to keep me locked in for an afternoon, but I was able to finish the trilogy of The Dinah Harris Mysteries in a weekend. Granted, I did nothing else all weekend, but I still finished them in a weekend.

Easily readable by high school and up, and okay for a junior high student with good reading skills and the maturity to handle the alcoholism and murders. It’s certainly both fun and spiritually challenging for adult mystery fans.

The Dinah Harris Mysteries are published by Master Books and written by Julie Cave.

If you’d like an extended look at each novel, check out Shaun’s reviews from Bible Geek Gone Wild:

http://biblegeekgonewild.com/2011/11/28/book-review-deadly-disclosures-by-julie-cave/

http://biblegeekgonewild.com/2012/01/03/book-review-the-shadowed-mind-by-julie-cave/

http://biblegeekgonewild.com/2012/02/08/book-review-pieces-of-light-by-julie-cave/

Only from Behind You: John 13

There is so much in the Passion Week narratives of John, that begin here in John 13 and continue until John 21, and I hate for you to miss any of it. I cannot, however, write it all in one blog post, so I’m going to narrow down one thing. One person, really.

Judas.

While the finality of Judas’ betrayal does not come for a few more chapters, it begins here. Judas goes out from among the disciples, from the inner circle, and finalizes his deal with the religious establishment and ruling authorities. The end is well-known, and typically accepted even by those who doubt the validity of any other part of the Gospel: Jesus goes to His death, betrayed there by His friend.

Countless bottles of ink have been spilled over Judas’ actions. Even the M*A*S*H episode “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?” (one of my favorites out of 11 seasons) features a discussion about Judas’ motivations. Typically, we want to know why?

Yet the reality is that there were only 12 people who could have betrayed Jesus. You find their names listed in Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19, and Luke 6:12-16. It had to be one of the Twelve. There were no others who were truly a portion of the ministry of Jesus enough to betray Him.

It is, as the wise Sir Humphrey Appleby once said, necessary to get behind someone if you are going to stab them in the back. Only a close supporter could betray Jesus. The Pharisees could not, neither could the Romans. Persians were no threat to His work, and the Chinese Empire of the Han dynasty could not have cared less.

The pool of betrayal possibilities was pretty shallow.

Why do I highlight this?

Quite simply, because we need to realize the same thing in modern Christianity. While I do not wish to downplay the danger to Christians from people like Kim Jong un, in the news today for having people executed for owning Bibles, or the intellectual challenge to people of faith from atheist scholars like Richard Dawkins, these people cannot destroy the faith as a whole. After all, history shows that scholars like Nietzsche and John Stuart Mill have attacked the faith before, and we are still here. Neros and Stalins and Hitlers have risen and fallen, and Christianity remains. Often, we see the old statement that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church proven true—the more the opposition, the more we see the Word of God spread.

Our greatest danger is not our external opponents. Instead, our greatest danger comes from within. The danger is from those within the faith, the leaders, the speakers, the authors, the pastors, the conference organizers (for us in the US), the professors, all who rise up and then twist the Christian Faith to their own ends.

These are the sources of our danger. The people who preach purity and chastity and do not live it—and flame out in the process, rather than truly being open and repentant. The people who write books on humility and practice arrogance. Those who are called and directed to protect the weak and instead protect themselves.

When we see this behavior, we should see the face of Judas in their eyes. The face of betrayal, not merely of us, but of Christ Himself. And typically the motivation comes back to the same old problem: a little bit of coin in the purse. A jingle of silver across our tables.

Yet the end remains the same: the betrayer eventually will face their actions. The personal gain will come to naught, and they will stand before God for what they have done.

What, then, shall we do?

1. Take heed for ourselves: if you are on that edge of turning against the faith, come back. Now. The cliff is perilous, the rope shorter than the fall.

2. Take grace for ourselves: I firmly believe that Judas had a myriad of opportunities to call out for grace and repent. The textual evidence suggests he never did. There was grace available—but it was rejected. Wherever you are, you can come back. Peter does—so can you.

3. Take grace to others: While I am speaking somewhat harshly, there is a balance. Betrayal comes from within, and one who betrays must choose repentance, that one still has access to God’s grace, and to our best ability we should extend grace to them. Take grace—oftentimes, a person falls and fears because they will lose the only thing they know. I personally know several ‘fallen’ ministers who never knew where to turn, because their whole life and education had been about working for churches, and they knew that would end—as would their ability to feed their families. Grace does not prevent all consequences, but it does aid with the landing.

4. Take heed for others: Alongside that grace, though, must be the concern for others that have been betrayed. It is our community responsibility to protect each other—allowing someone to stab another in the back shows a slip in the community work. We allowed too much power to one when that happens—or we were all deceived. If so, we must all work together to address the issues.

Yet nothing is more important that binding up the wounds of the broken-hearted in these cases. Bind the wounds, then fix the problems.

Today’s Nerd Note: John speeds through the Passover meal that institutes the Lord’s Supper ordinance of the Church. I think this is further evidence that John is aware of the Synoptic Gospels and Paul’s own writings on the night—and their ready availability among the churches of the time.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book: Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans

Today’s Book is just a pull off the shelf. I have a slew of great, good, or useful books that I’d like to share with you.

Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans: An Introduction to Key Thinkers and PhilosophiesI am, unashamedly, a Christian. A right-wing, conservative lunatic, raving crazy Bible-is-always-right kind of Christian. Inherent in this is the assumptive belief that if we only had the Bible, we would be okay. I firmly support having more than the Bible for learning, but the Bible sits on the top of the stack.

All good ideas in history, though, do not come from the Bible alone. Steve Wilkens Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans plunges into ten people’s ideas who can, at best, be considered questionable Christians because of their theology. Others are certainly not Christians.

Yet their ideas are helpful. Unlike the classic division phrased by Tertullian of “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?,” we see that Athens, the land of philosophy and pagans, has something useful to say to Jerusalem, the land of the holy.

The pagans involved, such as Plato and Aristotle, contributed great ideas to civilization. The questionable Christians range from Augustine to Descartes. Some will find these less questionable than others, but all have flawed theological moments or behavioral moments. What can one say? They’re men.

As you seek to broaden your personal understandings of life, as you sharpen your faith by understanding the world, grabbing Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans will be a great help for you.

Sermon Wrap-Up for November 10

Good Morning. I was able to freely preach the Word of God yesterday, and that freedom truly goes back to a group of militiamen in April 1775. It has been zealously guarded by generations of men and women, some conscripted to its protection and some volunteered, but none were left unchanged. I have long wondered how to best honor the legacy of those who serve, including my own father. Thank you seems to be inadequate, but there is precious little else available. So, Thank You. We must never forget nor abandon the freedoms you all helped secure, and forgive us for not heeding the warnings of those whose blood poured to preserve us all.

Morning Sermon: (Click title for audio)

Hebrews 13:1-4 November 10 AM Almyra FBC

I. Love of the Brethren--the community of love for Christ

II. Remember those imprisoned for their faith

III. Be grateful for what you have that keeps you out of prison

IV. Do not equate your troubles falsely with real troubles

November 10 AM Sermon from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

 

Evening Sermon:

Hebrews 13:8-9 November 10 PM Almyra

I. Sameness of God

     A. Not a boring sameness

     B. Stability

     C. Immutability

     D. Fixedness

II. Instability of mankind

     A. Strange teachings

     B. Grace

     C. Not fixated on the body.

November 10 PM from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

November 11, 2013 by Doug

We now look to Proverbs 11. Find the chapter that contrasts the righteous and wicked to be an interesting one on this Veteran’s Day. After all, many countries take this day to honor either those who fought in World War One or all those who have fought for their country. Here in the US, it’s all veterans who have served their nation since 1775.

 

The date chosen marks the day that World War One ended. I’m not sure what the obsession with 11 was, but I recall reading a history book that pointed out the truce time as 11/11/18 at 11:11. I’m having trouble verifying that it went all the way to the time, but the alleged “War to End All Wars” ended that day. Twenty years later, and a worse war was inevitable.

 

Proverbs 11 expresses why this happened, and really why any war happens. Take a look at Proverbs 11:9, especially the first part. Words of the wicked destroy their neighbors. Proverbs 11:11 even gives us that the words of the wicked can destroy cities.

 

We find, though, this chapter resounds with the commendation of wisdom as the path to peace and prosperity. Perhaps not a prosperity of abundance, but a prosperity of adequacy. A prosperity that lacks but does not waste, either.

 

What, then, should we take away on Veteran’s Day, 2013?

 

Simply this: wars happen for lack of wisdom. It may be that one side lacked wisdom, and so the wise and righteous had to fight anyway, but many times in history we look back and see points of avoidance. If only this, if only that…

 

Wisdom should be commended to all, and upheld as a valuable cornerstone of learning. Many times, WWI and WWII included, educational superior countries were the aggressors in war. They could handle the math, engineering, tactics, and logistics…but they lacked the wisdom to avoid it.

 

The righteous, the wise, these strive to avoid warfare. They also have the multitude of counselors necessary to win one if it comes. (Proverbs 11:14)

 

We owe to those who have gone before and secured freedom, we owe to those who will come after and need freedom, to rebuild a commitment to these two pillars. The pillar of wisdom and righteousness that will seek peace and the pillar of wisdom in counselors that will achieve victory if the wicked force war.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Thoughts: Date Night 2013

For the record, no it’s not that we have one date night a year and this is about 2013. It’s just that these are thoughts about the subject of having a “date night” and it’s 2013.

There are two errors that I think couples fall into when it comes to “date nights” once the relationship is established. The first is this: calling every thing you do with just the two of you “date night.” I think that’s a mistake, because in the long run, it leaves you without special moments.

To illustrate, let’s consider the Hibbard family for a few moments. My wife, Ann, is currently working from home for Home Educating Family, a homeschool resource. I do school from my computer, and much of my study-related work as a pastor can be done from home as well. In short, there’s no real dividing line around here between “home,” “work,” “school,” and even “church.” It all kind of blends together.

So, Ann and I could be home, with the kids in bed or off doing their own thing, and be working. Or we could be doing necessary household chores, like cleaning or cooking or plotting the meal for the family Thanksgiving Feast. We also have several times that we travel to do work or run errands, and do it with the kids with someone else. (We don’t leave them home alone, yet.)

To label any moment it’s just the two of us “date night” gets a little odd, then. Because a “date night” isn’t just about the absence of other people. It’s about the presence of focus on one another.

That’s the key: focus on one another.

The other danger is not to have any form of regular “date” time with your significant other, be it spouse, fiancé, whatever. That often creeps in because we’re busy, or we’re broke, or we’re distracted, or we’re so-in-love-that-we-don’t-need-that-kind-of-thing.

Nonsense on it all, I say. Your schedule may prohibit using the same-bat-time, same-bat-channel every week system, but you can, and should, intentionally spend time focused on your spouse.

Remember, that’s what this is about: intentional focus on one another.

Too busy, you say? You might be too busy for one long spot of time. I’ll buy that in certain seasons of life. Adjust. Make a few small spots throughout the week, then, that are no-phone/no-social media focus times. You can’t carve out 3 15 minute segments in a week? Then you might be too busy to have a spouse. That will catch up to you eventually—so de-busy.

Too broke? You know what we do for date night? Make sure the kids are in bed with books by 645, and cook something just for us. It’s sometimes been a special meal bought just for the night, it’s sometimes something from ingredients on hand, it’s been leftovers prepared a certain way. The leftover bit? Have barbecue sandwiches early in the week, then make barbecue nachos for date night.

And then talk. Play a board game. Play cards. Stream free TV replays off the Internet. The cost factor can be next to zero, except for time and intent.

Remember what this is about? Intentional focus on one another. Can it be about movies or TV shows? Sure. But the goal is focus on one another, not checking things off the cultural update list.

Too distracted? That’s an issue you need to address. If you’re a parent, you may have some time of helping your children understand that the “date night” partition means Mommy and Daddy need to be left alone except for a major emergency. And no, your thirst is not an emergency. This requires both wisdom and flexibility on your part—a ten-year-old can grasp this, a ten-month-old cannot. But as parents, make it your goal to meet your child’s needs and then get back to your own.

You are, after all, still parents. You are a couple first, though, and that’s often how you got the parenting gig. So don’t blow the job that got you the second responsibility, ok?

Other distractions need to be minimized. Remember waiting for letters? Guess what: texts and emails can often wait, too. Make a point of it. Turn off the phone if need be, and turn it back on at an agreed moment to double-check things.

And disengage from social media altogether.All night. There is a one-in-a-million chance that you will miss a once-in-a-lifetime status. You can live with that.

Don’t need it? Hogwash. You need to build on your relationship.

What do we do?

Whatever makes you both happy. Maybe it’s watching movies. Playing games. Maybe you like to make crafts together. Try and generally do things that both of you enjoy—don’t only do the trade-off “This week, we do your thing, next week we do mine.” That works for some of it, but you find yourselves being spectators rather than participants.

And don’t make it all about sex. I’m not typically open about sex on this blog, but let me make this clear: good sex follows a good relationship. Date night is not about the one night a week you have sex. It’s about the time you spend to build your relationship so that the sex is good whenever it happens.

The other thing I hear is this: Why would we do this? We’ll get on each other’s nerves!

Married people, listen up: if you are married, then you better learn to spend time together not on each other’s nerves. Maybe you need to build up in bite-size increments, but you live together and you are committed for life.

Might be wise to not want to end that life just to get out.

November 8 2013 by Doug

Proverbs 8 is a long chapter commending wisdom. I want to focus on the latter part of the chapter.

 

In Proverbs 8:22-36 we see the proclamation that Wisdom predates Creation. There is a primal idea here, that Wisdom is not something that comes after the existence of reality.

 

This matters for us, because if Wisdom comes after the material universe, then it is dependent on material reality. Otherwise, if Wisdom predates material existence, then the only sure way to get at the root of Wisdom is to seek what or who may have been there to institute wisdom.

 

If we want to find wisdom, we should see two things. First, we should see that the basic principles of wisdom will echo in all of Creation. We can learn and develop ideas about wisdom by studying Creation—the General Revelation of God.

 

Second, though, we should see that understanding wisdom requires us to seek and understand God. The idea being that Wisdom has its source not in what God created, but that God used Wisdom in the process of Creation.

 

Knowing God is necessary to for true Wisdom.

Book: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an

Disclaimer: I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. This book was provided by Bethany House Publishers several months ago, and I just have had a hard time getting it finished.

James R. White’s What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an Cover Artanswers one key question in the title. It’s “Qur’an” and not “Koran,” at least according to White. I do not know that this bothers anyone else, but there you go, and that’s settled. It is also worth noting that Islamic tradition calls for the label of “Holy Qur’an,” at least based on what I have seen in writings based in Islamic cultures. White does as I will do and not use that—I do not expect a Muslim critic of the Bible to refer to it as the Holy Bible if he did not believe it to be from God, I will not add an adjective to Qur’an that I do not think applies.

Moving on. Within Christian Internet circles, James R. White is fairly well-known as a preacher and radio/podcast host. He also spends a good deal of time debating members of other religions, especially Islam. I’m not a big audio learner, so I don’t know much of what White puts out, since I don’t listen. I know that he has come across to some as a heroic herald of the truth, and to others as a pain-in-the-Balaam-transport. I don’t know him personally, so I won’t offer a judgment. I can tell by what I read that he has done a great deal of research, though he does wear bow ties, which are not cool. They are annoying.

Away from the author, on to the book. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an is an in-depth look at the foundational document for Islam. White presents this as a necessary foundation for understanding Islam, both for personal use and for evangelistic efforts. Given the prevalence of Islam in the world today, most people with a desire to understand the world want to understand Islam.

And it is notoriously difficult to get good information on any religion. The writers are either proponents or opponents. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an is no exception, written by an opponent, but Islam holds that the true Qur’an only exists in Arabic, so you’ve got to get someone to translate it and work from there.

Throughout What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an, White provides great detail on various aspects of the Qur’an. He focuses on what is contained about Christianity and the relationship between Islam and the wider world. He also takes a chapter to address parallel passage within the Qur’an to point out that the complaint of Islam about the Bible, that the writers of the Gospels do not agree, is also valid against the Qur’an. There are parallel passages with minor wording differences.

On the downside, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an is not really a book that I would recommend for every Christian. Partly because far too many Christians would read this book and know more about the Qur’an than they do the Bible. That’s a failure of discipleship in many cases, and one that we would do well to correct.

Also, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an is quite a bit academic. I would see it as a wise text for comparative religions or world religions, but I think to hand out copies to every person in church this Sunday would result in a lot of unread books.

The facts and information is good, but in all honesty What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an reads like a collection of lecture transcripts, with the the excitement that begs for the next coffee break. If it is to be widely used, a reading discussion group would be almost a necessity. Given White’s role as a church leader, he probably would recommend that anyway, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Just a note worth making.

Summary: will I use this as a reference tool? Yes. Will I use it for a church class on Islam? Yes. Will I hand out copies to every Christian? Probably not.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from Bethanyhouse in exchange for the review.

Book: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an

Disclaimer: I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. This book was provided by Bethany House Publishers several months ago, and I just have had a hard time getting it finished.

James R. White’s What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an Cover Artanswers one key question in the title. It’s “Qur’an” and not “Koran,” at least according to White. I do not know that this bothers anyone else, but there you go, and that’s settled. It is also worth noting that Islamic tradition calls for the label of “Holy Qur’an,” at least based on what I have seen in writings based in Islamic cultures. White does as I will do and not use that—I do not expect a Muslim critic of the Bible to refer to it as the Holy Bible if he did not believe it to be from God, I will not add an adjective to Qur’an that I do not think applies.

Moving on. Within Christian Internet circles, James R. White is fairly well-known as a preacher and radio/podcast host. He also spends a good deal of time debating members of other religions, especially Islam. I’m not a big audio learner, so I don’t know much of what White puts out, since I don’t listen. I know that he has come across to some as a heroic herald of the truth, and to others as a pain-in-the-Balaam-transport. I don’t know him personally, so I won’t offer a judgment. I can tell by what I read that he has done a great deal of research, though he does wear bow ties, which are not cool. They are annoying.

Away from the author, on to the book. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an is an in-depth look at the foundational document for Islam. White presents this as a necessary foundation for understanding Islam, both for personal use and for evangelistic efforts. Given the prevalence of Islam in the world today, most people with a desire to understand the world want to understand Islam.

And it is notoriously difficult to get good information on any religion. The writers are either proponents or opponents. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an is no exception, written by an opponent, but Islam holds that the true Qur’an only exists in Arabic, so you’ve got to get someone to translate it and work from there.

Throughout What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an, White provides great detail on various aspects of the Qur’an. He focuses on what is contained about Christianity and the relationship between Islam and the wider world. He also takes a chapter to address parallel passage within the Qur’an to point out that the complaint of Islam about the Bible, that the writers of the Gospels do not agree, is also valid against the Qur’an. There are parallel passages with minor wording differences.

On the downside, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an is not really a book that I would recommend for every Christian. Partly because far too many Christians would read this book and know more about the Qur’an than they do the Bible. That’s a failure of discipleship in many cases, and one that we would do well to correct.

Also, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an is quite a bit academic. I would see it as a wise text for comparative religions or world religions, but I think to hand out copies to every person in church this Sunday would result in a lot of unread books.

The facts and information is good, but in all honesty What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an reads like a collection of lecture transcripts, with the the excitement that begs for the next coffee break. If it is to be widely used, a reading discussion group would be almost a necessity. Given White’s role as a church leader, he probably would recommend that anyway, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Just a note worth making.

Summary: will I use this as a reference tool? Yes. Will I use it for a church class on Islam? Yes. Will I hand out copies to every Christian? Probably not.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from Bethanyhouse in exchange for the review.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book: Why Christ Came

Continuing with our book-a-day effort, I’m still clearing out some book review books. Eventually, I’m going to get that stack emptied and start doing what I really want to with this, and push a book-a-day that is not new, not being marketed, but still worth your time. For now, though, I’ve got commitments to honor.

We are bearing down on Christmastime again, so it’s time for the Christmas books to come pouringWhy Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation out. I’ve got at least one more coming, but today I’ve got Why Christ Came, from Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein. It’s published by Reformation Heritage Books, and is a 31-day devotional book that looks like this:

What’s to like about this little book? First, Why Christ Came is unapologetically focused on all of the story of Christ, beginning with the Incarnation. That in itself is a great reminder at Christmastime. We must look from the manger to the cross to the empty tomb every day, but it does us good to remember the whole story.

Second, Why Christ Came is unafraid of big words like Incarnation. That’s a good thing. We often fear theological depth, especially at special moments in life. We want to simplify, but that needs to come from a point of understanding the deeper moments.

Third, Why Christ Came is served up in bite-size pieces. You can work through it in a month, and grow a little each day. It’s truth well-served. Every morsel starts with Scripture, and then illustrates just what that specific concept means, usually through more Scripture.

Would I change anything here? I’m not certain that I would. I would be cautious about purchase price here, and advise that the e-format is probably less expensive and more inline with what you get, but otherwise, it’s a good add-on for your Christmastime reading. It’s also not a bad look for any other 31 days you’d like to focus on the Incarnation of Christ.

Note: Free book through Cross-focused Reviews.

 

November 7 2013

Sticking with the concept of summarizing the whole chapter this month, Proverbs 7 continues the imperative to the sons of the king. The imperative here is one of warning: avoid the adulteress.

 

This, like Proverbs 5, carries a double meaning. Now, these double meaning moments in Scripture are not a matter of just making up something and claiming it’s present in the text. Nor is it a matter of allegorizing everything, where nothing is what it really says, and instead it all means some invisible indiscernible to normal people stuff.

 

Rather, it’s seeing the symbolism for what it is. Take, for example, Star Trek. On its face, Star Trek is about a group of people exploring the galaxy, seeking out new life forms and new civilizations. There is a lesson every episode, about dealing with Tribbles or whatever else, but there’s an underlying point as well. Not that everyone speaks English in the future, but that people can work together across racial, cultural, and (dare I say it?) planetary lines. And those partnerships work.

 

Both lessons are intended. I think Proverbs runs the same way. There is the surface lesson and the undercurrent lesson.

 

Proverbs 7 warns, sternly, against the adulteress. Since the text is addressed to sons, that’s a logical warning. Be wary of the woman that would lead you from home. Throughout the whole chapter, this echoes: wisdom stays close to what matters most.

 

Think about it: how much less trouble would Natalie Portman have gotten into if she had not fallen for Hayden Christiansen (Star Wars Prequels) or Chris Hemsworth (Thor/Avengers)? A whole lot less! And the universes involved would have been better off, too. All she had to do was keep her heart fixed on someone from her own planet.

 

Of course, that’s an extreme example, but consider it well.

 

More appropriately, this is a warning about falling from your family to chase your own desires. Face it, no one really jumps into adultery because they’re repulsed by the individual they fall with. No one jumps into adultery because everyone else wants them to, but they don’t have an interest. It’s always based on fulfilling some form of desire.

 

And it comes back to destruction. Every time. You cannot fold the abandonment of your marriage vows neatly to the side and have everything else be okay. Failing to honor your marriage is like leaving a thermal exhaust port that connects to directly to the main reactor—you’re doomed, eventually.

 

This should be obvious, but we need to be reminded. So consider yourself reminded. Also, another observation that I think is relevant: if you are in a position to choose your leaders, your influencers, your examples, then it is absolutely fair to hold them to this standard. If they have, especially regularly, trampled on righteousness, then they are not fit.

 

Now, the caveat: sometimes, people are the innocent third-party in those cases. It is never fair to judge an abandoned spouse for the other’s adultery—never. It is never fair to share the blame between a victim and an attacker, and that includes those where the issue is simply age. NEVER.

 

There is more here, though, and it is similar to the idea in Proverbs 5. The adulteress is the not just a literal woman who is tempting the sons of the king.

 

The adulteress is the also the false wisdom of the world. The quick route, the short path. The dark arts, or the process of concentrating power into a ring, just so that it’s easier to wield. All of these ideas show us the same principle: what is right often requires us to walk farther and evade something that looks excellent.

 

Wisdom, though, knows what true excellence is. Proverbs 7 reminds of that.

Take a Hint! Numbers 24

We are nearly to the end of the Balaam Narratives in Numbers. We’ve seen Balaam try and balance personal profit with fearing God. We’ve seen Balaam pronounce blessings that I do not think he expected to pronounce. We’ve seen him talk to his own donkey, and God speaking through a talking donkey deserves an entire blog series of its own.

I digress. Today in Numbers 24, we see Balaam beginning to get the idea. Numbers 24:1 tells us he saw that it pleased YHWH to bless Israel. At which point, Balaam then sets aside his ways of seeking ‘prophecy’ and the true Spirit of the One True God came upon him. (Numbers 24:2) He then speaks words of blessing over Israel, which we could go all Bible-nerdy and debate whether they are blessings that would not have happened had they not been said, or if they were simply foretellings of the blessing of YHWH that would come upon Israel.

Hint: it’s the latter. While our ‘self-narrative’ affects our life, the words spoken by someone with no power or authority over us do nothing. Spiritually, Balaam has no power but God does, so Balaam is not bringing the blessings into existence. God does so, and gives Balaam a peek into the future to report them.

Balaam takes a prudent course of action in this chapter. Let’s look at how he handles the whole thing.

First, he sees what pleases God. Pay attention. Read the Word of God. See what pleases God. Do we actually take time to consider that idea? Does this please God? He is knowable, based on the Word of God where He has revealed Himself. If Jesus wouldn’t do it, it does not please God.

Second, he does what pleases God. It is not enough to see. Doing follows.

Second, he abandons those things which displease God. The divination, the ways of false religion. It’s all out. If you know what pleases and displeases God, then you will do the one and not the other, and both receive equal effort in your life. While it is certainly easier to avoid the bad by doing the good, and one can err by sitting about, hoping to never do wrong by never doing anything, that’s no solution.

Third, he beats feet away from the enemies of God. Balaam’s last statements are about the end-result of afflicting God’s people, the closing chapter of Moab’s existence. So he gets away.

Do we recognize the need for these three concepts in our lives? In our churches?

That our goal is to focus on what pleases God, avoiding evil, doing good, and not partnering with darkness. Even if it’s a “good cause.”

Balaam’s story does not actually end here. Numbers 31 reflects that he counseled Balak that the only way to sideline Israel was to entice them to sin. God had no curse for them, and no outside power could stand against them, but their own sin could be their undoing.

And it was. When we look at the next chapter, we will see the plague brought by the people’s sin.

Balaam is not unlike many of our cultural experts that we listen to in the modern American church. He could clearly see what God did and didn’t approve of, but he found the loopholes to sow Israel’s destruction through themselves.

We must be cautious that we do not draw into our lives the seeds of destruction. Even one who has blessed us in the past may be troubling our future.

Today’s Nerd Note: I’m not going to detail the ways that Balaam’s prophecies come true. Some of these are certainly emblematic and hard to figure.

A few worth noting: Numbers 24:17 reflects the rising of a star, a scepter that shall crush Moab. This could be Davidic or Messianic, depending on how you press it out.

Then there are the references to the Kenites, and they reappear in Judges 4-5.

Just a few spots worth noting.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings: Gideon

We’re now working through the book of Judges with the Wednesday night kids. I know that I’ve recently preached through this area, so here’s the sermon link: http://www.doughibbard.com/2013/10/sermon-wrap-up-for-october-6.html

Now, on to a few additional questions and thoughts:

1. I’ve always been fascinated by the fleece aspects of the narrative. I’m not sure we’re supposed to approve or disapprove of Gideon’s need for confirmation. We have such clear certainty of how God has spoken in Scripture that I think we miss how challenging it was in those times to be certain who and what you were talking to.

2. I don’t think you can make a case that the final 300 were chosen for their valor or skill. We’ve often seen people make the case that these showed a vigilance or skill level, but that’s uncertain. Perhaps it’s the case, but ultimately, the skill and valor of the 300 avails nothing in combat. It’s all about the chaos God brings

3. One of my big questions in this overall passage is the identity of the Angel of YHWH.  There’s just something different about how this one Angel receives worship and responds to being called God, that other angels don’t do.

4. Reassurance. I love Gideon for the sheer number of times he’s scared into inaction and needs reassurance. That’s so often me—even when it shouldn’t be.

5. Finishing the job: Gideon does not quit by driving off the Midianites. He closes the deal by chasing them down and defeating their leadership. So many problems come from not finishing the job.

 

Those are my brief add-ons for this passage. The main focus for the kids will be on obedience in challenging times, and how God fights for us.

Book: The Wayfinding Bible

One question I am asked, from time to time, is "How do I get started reading the Bible?" After all, the Bible is a collection of writings that span 1600 years of composition, various human authors, and a single Divine Author. Where do you start?

For years, I have suggested the book of 1 John (the First Epistle of John) as a starting point to learn of the love of God and basic truths of Christianity. However, it's always been a challenge of where to go next. There are various aids to that, and into the scene of study Bibles comes The Wayfinding Bible. Rather than being a Study Bible like many that are out there already, The Wayfinding Bible takes a different approach.

First, there are basic introductions to each book of the Bible. These are not in-depth, so if you are a long-time Bible student, you may notice some lack there. However, these are adequate to the first time reader, whether teenaged or older. These are presented in color, which helps with interest and clarity.

Second, there's a timeline. I love timelines, and they help place the story of Scripture in historical context. Of course, using a line shows an assumption that time is a linear progression from cause to effect, but one typically thinks so.

Then, there are the wibbly-wobbly lines at the top of the pages. These are the real hallmark of The Wayfinding Bible. These lines mark three paths to explore Scripture without trying to read the whole thing, which ought to be the long-term goal. However, these look at a quick look (Flyover), a straight-through look (Direct), and a slow path (Scenic). The labels could not be better chosen--you miss a great deal in Flyover, but you get from A to B quickly. You also get a quick look at many topics.

Direct and Scenic are also good, clear labels. For those of you who take long drives, you probably know the difference. Direct is like getting from here to there on an Interstate. You see some things and then you get to the end. Scenic is taking those two-lane state highways. It takes longer, you see more, and yet you still don't see everything.

I'm a Bible nerd, so I'm not sure I really like the Flyover approach, but I see it has value. I also might have chosen differently and included more of the stories from Old Testament narrative, but that's my preferences as well. Really, the main improvement I would make is a few additional flyover paths to touch other areas.

I did especially like the "Finding Jesus" sections in the book introductions.

NLT is not quite my favorite Bible translation, but it works well for new readers, so I'm okay with it.

I did receive a copy of this book from Tyndale House, the publishers.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Not Stinketh! John 12

Well, John 11 was about those that stinketh, so this seemed like a good title.

John 12 is the turning point from active public ministry to the Cross. This is six days before the Crucifixion, and leads into the Triumphal Entry. I preached on this back in April, 2012, and the link is here if you want that outline. (The audios are here: morning and evening if you just want to listen.)

This is another of those chapters that are remarkably rich. You have the anointing of Jesus for burial, the Triumphal Entry, a story about Greeks seeking Jesus, and the clear statement by Jesus that His death was imminent. I’m personally persuaded John should have twice as many chapters for the content, it’s far too easy to miss things in the current arrangement.

I would simply, today, contrast for you the people, especially the rulers, in John 12:42 with Mary in John 12:3. We have much to learn from these two verses that almost summarize the point of this chapter.

First, we have Mary. Despite opposition by one of the Apostles, she pours her life’s savings out as an offering for Jesus. That’s really the only viable explanation here: throughout her life, Mary has gathered enough to purchase this box of perfume, or she was given it at some point, but it’s effectively priceless. The cost reflects that it’s worth a year’s work, and typically those who could were not likely to be wasteful of their work.

She pours out this offering, recognizing the truth: Jesus will soon be dead and buried. At this point, the Resurrection is not quite expected by anyone, so she is doing what she knows—prepare the body and hope for that day at the end of days.

The opposition? First, Judas. Keep in mind that only Jesus is aware of Judas’ betrayal at this point. To Mary, this is an argument from Jesus’ inner circle of friends and followers. Additionally, she now risks the wrath of the religious leadership at large: remember, Rome has tried to kill Jesus before (Herod the Great?) and the Jewish leaders are out to squelch any further of this Jesus stuff.

Mary, at this point, has nothing but Jesus. And He is all she needs.

Then you have the unnamed “rulers” in John 12:42. These are afraid of the cost of following the Messiah. After all, the synagogue is not just the center of religion in Israel of the time, it’s the center of community. It’s the center of resistance to those blasted Romans, too. Even if that resistance is only cultural and linguistic, rather than military.

For those, there are so many additional things they want. Cultural approval, friendships, business opportunities, whatever else is available, these people cannot give it up.

What’s it going to be?

Jesus, and let the rest fall where it does?

Today’s Nerd Note: Don’t overlook the strange behavior of the religious leaders in John 12:10-11. Let’s kill Lazarus? Really?

If you are so angry about God’s work that you would kill someone to cover it up, that’s a problem.

November 5 2013 by Doug

Proverbs 5 is our focus for today. Again, let’s take the whole chapter and examine it. Why? Because Solomon didn’t write in verses only, though one could argue that Proverbs and Psalms are the main books where the verse divisions are actually meaningful.

 

 

This chapter is an extended warning against immorality. I think it is valid, in the context of the book, to see two things here:

 

1. The absolutely plain meaning: there is a standard of morality, and one should not violate it. That’s a big “duh!” However, we both do it anyway, and elect leaders, follow leaders, empower leaders that violate it every blasted day.

 

I’m not speaking of the “well, we’re all sinners, we all make mistakes” type of issues. I’m speaking of the “I have no regard for right and wrong” folks. And they are out there. In Congress, in Governor’s Mansions, in Capitols, and even worse: in pulpits, studies, and denominational offices.

 

First and foremost, we must strive to evict immorality from our lives. The text here speaks greatly of sexual immorality, and I think that is because most forms of self-centeredness eventually manifest into sexual behavior. There are other moral issues, and those matter as well.

 

Second, though, and not second as in “don’t do this until you’re done with first,” is that we must evict those who rule immorally or who exalt immorality from leadership in our lives. It can be as simple as preferring one show to another, or as complex as actively working against a political candidate. It can be as easy as reading different books or as hard as either changing church leadership or changing churches. It must be done, though. Even though it will be done by imperfect people in imperfect ways.

 

2. The not-so-plain meaning: if you read all of Proverbs, you see Wisdom and Folly both personified as women, and the sons being instructed are encouraged to pursue Wisdom.

 

When you take that idea and expand it, and I think you can, then you see the other warning here. Do not play at being committed to Wisdom and try to see Folly on the side. Be of one-mind: married to living in fear of YHWH and fully committed.

 

This is what I see in Proverbs 5. What do you see?

Book: Awakening Faith

Running a book a day, hopefully, trying to clear some backlog.

There’s a consistent problem in modern life, whenever modern is for you. That problem is this: we tend to think that we are the smartest people to ever life. No one else has had the same problems or come up with the same solution to those problems. No other generation has figured out what we know—it was refreshing to hear a conversation recently about the plethora of “Gospel-centered” books and how we come across as if we discovered the Gospel in the last decade, when the Church has been around for two millennia. It’s not healthy.

Into that problem comes a few good ideas. One of those ideas is to reach out and read from prior generations. That can be intimidating to tackle in one fell swoop, but a good way is to take little bites and see what has been said in ages past. If you couple that with the excellent idea of daily readings to help draw us nearer to God, then you can accomplish this by picking up James Stuart Bell’s Awakening Faith. It looks like this:

Now, let’s be honest with our credits. Bell did not truly write Awakening Faith. He wrote the introduction, and he selected the writings, but these daily devotionals were written by people like St. Patrick or the Venerable Bede. I am uncertain, based on the information in the book, whether or not Bell did all the translating or if he worked from existing translations.

That does not particularly matter to the value of Awakening Faith. You have here a year’s supply of devotionals developed by the giants that stand in the early years of church history. I cannot find a bad day among them all, and I will enjoy reading and rereading this for years to come.

If there is a fault to find here, it is more the fault of history than of Bell. There is a reason that these are all devotions from the Early Church Fathers. No women are featured in the writings, but the well is pretty dry to draw from in that slice of time. So, again, it’s no fault of Bell, but it’s worth noting. More a reminder of the missing half of wisdom from the last two millennia than anything else.

In all, though, do not let that scare you away from Awakening Faith. Keep in mind that these Early Church Fathers wrote before over verbosity became a virtue, before printing presses. These men say more in a page than most of us say in a blog series or a book. Grab a copy for yourself and for a history-minded Christian friend.

Note: free book from Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for the review. No, you can’t have mine. Click the link above or search on Amazon for Awakening Faith.

Worship Services Recap for July 12

Here is what you’ll find: there is an audio player with the sermon audios built-in to it, just click to find the one you want. You’ll also f...