Friday, January 31, 2014

Food Friday: January 31

I am thinking of starting up a different intermittent series here on the old blog. Why? Because it’s my blog. And I have come to this conclusion: there’s no reason for me to always be serious or selling on here. And that’s what I do a lot of: either serious (mostly) Bible or church issues, with the occasional politics thrown in, or selling books by giving them review publicity. Not that I have ever misled you on a book—I think I’ve called out a few bad ones, and I’ve tried to be honest and not blindly endorse.

But life’s not all about books. It’s not even all about the sermons or the Bible material I do. I actually have other things I like. I like movies. I like fun books. I like sports.

In recent years, though, I’ve realized how much I enjoy cooking. So, I’m going to start blogging about food. Not a whole lot—occasionally on Fridays I’ll write up something I’ve learned or done with food.

Not because I’m an expert, or because it’s earth-shattering. But because it’s a slice of me and my life, and I want to take the occasional personal turn.

I will not tell you I’m running a virtual cooking school, because then you’ll get mad when you get sick from something I do Smile

 

But I hope you’ll join me. And interact. I’ll even use pictures!

January 2014: Proverbs 31 by Doug

Proverbs 31. It strikes fear into the hearts of some people, because the last 21 verses are an extensive discussion of the “virtuous wife.” And trying to live up to all of that is intimidating. In fact, the only thing I can think of more intimidating than trying to perfectly live every detail of that passage is trying to live with someone trying to live every detail of that passage perfectly. More in a moment on that section, though.






First, we need to remember that Proverbs 31 does not start with “A wife of noble character, who can find?” It starts with a reference to King Lemuel, and this guy’s problematic. Why? Because he is either a pseudonym for Solomon or someone we’ve never heard of anywhere else. I don’t think taking Lemuel as not-Solomon hurts the authority of Proverbs, as I would put Solomon as having compiled and included this section. It’s also not impossible that Lemuel is a rename of Solomon, but that seems a stretch since there is no extant Biblical evidence that he had used another name in Israel. Proverbs would have to be the evidence.





(There’s also the possibility, per the UBS Handbook on Proverbs, that this should read Lemuel, king of Massa. Massa possibly being an Arabian kingdom. One might stretch this into a Solomon-influenced king related to the Queen of Sheba incident in 1 Kings 10. If you’re going to imagine that, though, you’ve gone farther than figuring Solomon used the name Lemuel.)





These first 10 verses speak to Lemuel’s overall duty as a king. They are valuable, and I’ll revisit them as we work through all of Proverbs. There’s a lot of year left, after all.





Then we come to the “Wife of Noble Character” passage. There are debates about whether or not this is from Lemuel or another source, but I find the argument to separate it weak. There is no reason to take it as an appendix after the advice to Lemuel about being a king. In fact, this fits well with advising him regarding his choice of a queen.





That is one of the debates regarding the overall description of the “Proverbs 31 Woman.” Is this an ideal to live up to for a woman or the qualifications a man should seek in a wife? Or is it, as I have seen suggested, that the conclusion here is in praise of wisdom itself, personified again at the end of Proverbs as at the beginning, in feminine form?





I side with the idea that this is an idealized description of real woman, especially of the type fit to be a queen. While I can see the secondary subtly of the “P31 Woman” as Wisdom, I think the reverse is accurate: wisdom is personified as a woman because there is often overlooked wisdom in the actions of women. In many cultures, then and now, wise men sit about and discuss life and knowledge. All the while, there are women making things happen.





So I think this description is to point out that Lemuel should seek a wife that does more than a wife fits a beauty picture. And that women should see their efforts go to building a heritage more than to chasing after vanity. Men would do well to do the same.





In this, we come to Proverbs 31:11 where the man is reminded to trust in her. Men, if you would praise the virtue of your wife to others, then you should demonstrate that by your trust in her. Trust her abilities, her knowledge, her foresight. You will not lack for gain when you do so.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Remember the Tents: Numbers 29

In Summary: Numbers 29 runs us through more of the ceremonies of the people of Israel. It is certainly tempting to skip on through this and get to the “good stuff” like David and Goliath or, better yet, Lazarus, Jesus, and Resurrections! I think we should be cautious about doing that, though. There are some valuable lessons here.

First, we see a holy convocation for the first day of the seventh month. While we allocate days a little differently, 12 months were in the year as the Jews accounted time then as well.(See In Nerdiness) This makes the seventh month the middle of the year. Take time out, halfway through, to worship. Not a bad idea, is it? It’s actually what we do in many cases, this Sunday’s upcoming SuperBowl is no exception. Halfway through the game, we’ll worship the American gods of rock, roll, and party.

Second, we see the Day of Atonement. This is the big day, for on this day the major sacrifice for unknown sin and community sin was offered (see Leviticus 16 or here). No work is to be done, no food consumed. It is a time of recognition of sin. As I cannot say enough about the importance of this day in Old Testament theology, I’ll say no more.

Third, we see the Feast of Tabernacles. This is a great festival for the people, because it reminds them of where they came from, and what their people had been through. Imagine if we made Congress and the President camp out every winter at Valley Forge. In authentic tents/huts like the Continental Army. How differently would we see our government behave?

How differently would we behave if we had to? If we took the time to remember the blood and sweat that brought many of our families to freedom in this country?

What if we combined that with the trials and tribulations it took to preserve the Word of God for us as Christians? Take a read through some church history and see how much power attempted to suppress common people holding the Word of God. Live through that, or relive it. And this says nothing of reconsidering what it took for Jesus to go to the Cross.

In Focus: I think we should take a moment and dwell on the command to do “no work” that recurs in this chapter (29:1, 7,12). That’s three days in a month, in addition to the normal Sabbath-keeping. True, some translations render this as “no ordinary work.” However, we should note two things:

1. We should hold back from the stresses of this world to worship God. Take time.
2. We should not consider gathering with believers to celebrate God’s forgiveness, deliverance, and mercy as work.

In Practice: I want to challenge you to three things in light of this passage:

1. Grab a notebook or a piece of paper and write down five major things God has pulled your family through. If you’ve got them in your lifetime, great! If not, go back. One of mine is this: Granny Hibbard told my father that she would not approve of him becoming a helicopter pilot when he got out of college in 1969. Dad joined the Army to do something else dangerous, and then found himself learning about missiles in Oklahoma. Then, in a funny twist, he went to seminary, graduated, and became an Air Force Navigator. Guess what? God pulled our family through that, and it included moving us from the lifestyle of my grandparents who were struggling to escape coal mining poverty.

What are yours?

2. Take time off and worship God. If you must, take it in small bits across the week. Put the phone down. Turn off the TV. Worship. Sing, read the Word, pray. Do it with those who know your struggles best.

Who would you worship with?

3. Offer something of value to help others know God better. It could be your time. It could be your efforts. It could be your money. Your talents. Whatever it may be, find it and offer it to the fullest.

What can you bring?

In Nerdiness: The first nerdiness note is this: the Jewish calendar was based on lunar months. Lunar months do not line up with solar years perfectly, so you occasionally have to rebalance. It looks like one of the main methods was adding a “leap month” at times to push seasons back in line. (If you don’t have a Bible reference book, check here http://www.jewfaq.org/calendar.htm for some extended information.) You may wonder how a culture could live like this, but you must understand that agrarian life is based on seasons and weather, not calendar pages. You plant when it is the right time to plant, you shear when the sheep are full—not plant on March 15 and sheer on September 30. In fact, that was, as I understand it, one of the problems for family farmers financially for a long time: bankers like calendars and due dates. Corn likes sunshine and rain, and it gets ready when it’s ready—not always per the mortgage agreement.

The second nerdiness note is this:I think there’s a complexity of economics necessary to make the festival system work. I cannot quite nail it all down right now, but that just seems the case. You need too many different items. It may be a pointer that “ancient” should not be assumed to be “backwards” in our thinking.

January 2014: Proverbs 30 by Doug

Looking into the Proverbs today, let us take a closer look at Proverbs 30:11. You should see it by hovering over the link there—which allows you to read without me worrying about copyright concerns. There’s a lot of litigating going on in the world today, most of it unnecessary, especially in the Christian world. Let’s not stress too much about that here—there’s enough other places to go for that.





Instead, take a look at our verse. To get at its implications, we need to think about it in layers.





The first layer is the obvious one: choose not to be the kind of person who curses your father and mother. This is an act of the will, either in avoidance of being that person or in choosing to be that person. Keep in mind as you consider this that we cut a much deeper division in the modern era between words and actions than is in view in Proverbs. Speaking a curse on your father would be naturally followed by behavior of ill-will.





The second layer is close to obvious: note that the father is cursed but the mother is simply not blessed. Mothers, especially in a culture with a home-centered economy, sacrifice in ways that are incomprehensible to non-mothers. It is incumbent on children to recognize how their mother sacrificed to teach them, protect them, and guide them and bless their mothers for it.





The third layer digs a little deeper. Fathers and mothers represent our ancestors. We are not, not, NOT to worship our ancestors. However, we can speak respectfully of what they have done—assuming it is respectable. And considering that your ancestors did not jump off a bridge before ancestoring you, that’s a start, right? While your great-grandpappy may have been a grumpy old moonshiner, you can just move on and not worry about him, or find something positive. But don’t go about rubbishing the old man. He was doing the best he could.





This is especially true for many of us who find some heavy-duty nuts up the family tree. We so readily see their faults that we forget the education systems and cultural pressures of their times. We assume we would know and do better, but if you were locked in low education poverty in the 1800s, you might have been just as backwards.





The fourth layer is right under that layer. Not only our ancestors but our predecessors, those outside of our family tree but part of our heritage. Maybe it’s a church predecessor. Maybe our governing forefathers. We see much better now, but we do not have to be disrespectful of their blindness. It may not have been blindness but dim light.





What, then, do we do?





There is the classic advice of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” That’s valuable, especially about those whose behavior cannot be changed. Let it go. Apologize if necessary but you can admit fault without disparaging individuals.





There is also this: seek the good. And if you can find none, then let the cycle stop. Be worth blessing to those who follow after you.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wednesday Wanderings: January 29 2014

Tonight’s passage for the kids is about the coronation of Saul in 1 Samuel 8-10. Here are some thoughts:

1. Samuel is a too-frequent story. Godly man, ungodly children. We cannot know exactly what happened with his kids, but we know his sons turned out wicked. We don’t even know what becomes of them once Saul is king. We know this: God does not rebuke Samuel’s parenting like he does Eli’s. That’s important: if he had deserved rebuke, God would surely have said so.

Sometimes you can do it all the way it should be done, and the results are not so good.

2. Saul is the perfect vision of a king. He’s big, strong, and cannot find a pair of donkeys. Did we read that right? Here’s a guy who is so useless at home that his dad sends him seeking lost donkeys—we don’t know how many—and he’s gone at least three days. (One commentary makes it 3 days, but I am not certain exactly why. I think they are taking that from the distances traveled.

Leadership should require a bit more than appearance.

3. Saul is also a bit on the clueless side: it appears that Saul has been living within a day’s travel of Samuel—and has not heard of him? Where has he been?

Cluelessness is not an asset.

4. This is the first time I remember noting a “chef” in Scripture. That’s cool.

Chefs feed kings :) Sorry, nothing super spiritual there.

5. Saul does not really want to be king, which is probably a good thing. But his complete hesitance in obedience is not a good thing.

Humility is good. Fleeing from the call of God is not.


Now, with the adults, we’ll do Q&A from the latter parts of Genesis. Here’s a few notes: honor your commitments. Don’t brag about dreams. Do what is necessary.

That’s what I’ve got to wander through this Wednesday!

January 2014: Proverbs 29 by Doug

Proverbs 29:21 is one of those verses that gets us into trouble in the modern day. Why? Because it talks about slavery without simply saying slavery is bad. And some folks would make it even worse than that! How so?






First, Proverbs 29:21 certainly speaks of slavery. Slavery was a fact of life in the ancient world. It was sometimes as wicked as modern slavery, or 19th century slavery, or 15th century slavery, but sometimes it was not. That’s a whole different discussion. Proverbs deals with life as it is as much as life as we wish it would be.





In truth, many places in the Bible speak of slavery. Nowhere is slavery truly endorsed, though Paul speaks to slaves of accepting life and going on as best possible. Neither is mistreatment of slaves approved, except by mangling this verse. Which comes from our modern tendency to argue from opposite extremes. Notice how the verse disapproves of “pampering” a slave.





We need to set that aside for a moment, though, and examine the word “slave” in Proverbs. Actually, let us widen the net and take apart the Hebrew word עֶ֫בֶד and see what uses this word has. First, it is used of a “villein” (see medieval England) or a serf in feudalism. This is someone who has to work land, has a measure of freedom in place but not of movement. It is also used of military subordination and of non-familial dependents. This is the term used by Joseph’s brothers when they come to Egypt for food (Genesis 42:10) and Jacob of himself to Esau (Genesis 33:14).





This is not the word for someone held in perpetual bondage with absolutely no rights. Let us keep that straight from the get-go: there is no lash inherent in this terminology, and likely the translations from the Septuagint forward that have rendered this as “servant” or “house-servant” rather than “slave” serve the modern reader better. (corrections from better Hebrew speakers are welcome, that’s why there are comments)





Pampering, though, is an excellent word choice. The Septuagint uses the Greek for “live wantonly,” so those concepts pair well. This is someone who is allowed to shirk their responsibilities and have pleasure instead. Pleasure that is unearned.





The issue at stake here is this: if you expect someone to work for their living then you had best not let them slack for the first years of their life. Not that we expect toddlers to work, but the reference here is to ages where work could be reasonably expected.





This wisdom applies to many other relationships, and it’s worth broadening. First of all, it works in parenting: kids who are pampered until 21 are headed for struggles very different from kids given responsibility. Further, within churches, I think there is value here in thinking about how we work together.





Now, to be clear, I think that anyone who views church members as their “slaves” had better have been resurrected three days after crucifixion, have nail scarred hands, and be able to walk on water. There’s no room for superiority among us all. But this applies in churches: when we allow (and sometimes encourage) large groups of people to sit back and do nothing, then in the end we will have people who expect to just that: nothing.





This includes pampering the preacher and not expecting him to occasionally take out the trash, too. Otherwise, he’ll be a bit on the lazy side.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Betrayed! John 18

In Summary: At this point in the story, Jesus and the disciples have finished the Last Supper and head to the Garden of Gethsemane. This chapter continues through the arrest of Jesus, including the betrayal by Judas, and works its way through the trials of Jesus. We see Caiaphas and Pilate here, including Pilate’s offer of release and the infamous shout of “Not this man, but Barabbas!”

The challenge of John 18 is finding one focal point among these summary ideas. Should we examine Jesus and His trials? The injustice carried out when anyone is presumed guilty is bad enough, but here we are certain of His innocence! Neither Caiaphas nor Pilate are concerned with justice, though. They are both concerned with power and control. This is bad.

Then we encounter Peter and his denials of Jesus. We knew this was coming, for Jesus had told Peter it would occur (John 13:38), and Jesus is never wrong. It still hurts to see it happen, and even on a second reading, when you think Peter would straighten up between Luke and John, he doesn’t. This is too often my life: I know it’s coming, a major failure. Then I do it anyway.

We could look at how the religious leaders and the political leaders of the day took someone into custody under cover of darkness. How they ramrodded a set of show trials. How they had looked the other way until it was convenient to grab Him. Of course, that’s probably a shade too close to home, isn’t it? There are too many times we want to let Jesus loose until He’s inconvenient, then we want Him locked up. When He has disaster relief workers out, He’s okay, but when He sends people out to rebuke sin, He’s got to go. When He’s inspiring gift-giving, He’s welcome, but when He inspires chastisement or calls for sacrifice, then He’s a menace.
In Focus: Instead, though, I think we could benefit from a focus on the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. I could wander endlessly across the reasons for Judas’ action. Why would he do this? What wrong had Jesus done him? Not a bit.

Judas, though, stands in for Adam at this point in the story. We could, and should, ask the same questions of Adam. Why would you betray God’s commands? What wrong had He done you?

Yet in my heart, I know this: we all carry that ability to be self-absorbed and betray those who do us no wrong. It is not a positive character trait, but it is a common one. Why Judas did this, why Adam did, all pale in comparison to the real point.

The story’s not about them. It’s not really about us, either. It is about Jesus. With Jesus, we know why. He goes through all the injustice and all the mockery for us. Because the worst of humanity came forward, struck Him, and He overcame. The light shines in the darkness, and darkness flees.

In Practice: What can we take in practice from this?

First: Defend the innocent. We can be certain that none are as innocent as Jesus, but the point stands. In the interest of justice, we treat all as innocent until proof shows that must change.

Second: Restore the fallen. We see this again with Peter, but realize that any of us can slip. We need restoration.

Third: Quit leashing Jesus. We lock up the Son of God when we try to make Him white, Baptist, or hip. While I’m convinced He speaks with a strong voice and no wimpy sound, He did not look or sound like me—it is my job to learn to sound like Him! Let the Word speak for Himself, and stop masking Him.

In Nerdiness:  Two main nerd points: first, the differences in John’s account and the Synoptic accounts are interesting. John compacts the trials and leaves out the prayers in Gethsemane. That’s a “why” I can’t explain. Perhaps John felt that time too intimate to share?

Second, note the “I am” statement in John 18:5, John 18:6, and John 18:7. You may have missed it, because for the sake of English grammar, we get it as “I am he.” But take a look at the NASB’s italics for “he” or the NLT’s capitalizations of “I AM.”

Jesus simply tells the arresting posse that “I AM.” They fall. I like the view that they fall at the power of His words, though some have them falling out of fear that God is about to lightning-strike Jesus for blasphemy. Which raises the question: when that didn’t happen, why didn’t they rethink?

John uses a lot of “I am” statements of Jesus. They are worth your noticing.

January 2014: Proverbs 28 by Doug

The wicked flee.





Not because they ought to flee. In fact, often it feels like the wicked stand firm when the righteous stand against them. The wicked hold and even advance in the face of opposition. The wicked advance and seize grounds which ought not be theirs.





Why, then, would Solomon tell us that the wicked flee when no one is pursuing? Our experience suggests otherwise. Have the wicked improved over the years? Certainly not.





Here are some realities:





1. The wicked flee in the terror of their hearts. Many times, those who perpetrate great wickedness are actually greatly fearful. It is the fear that causes their violence and tormented actions. This is not an excuse. Rather, it is an explanation when you back up both steps: a wicked person is fearful, and their fear makes them act with greater depravity.





2. The wicked flee in terror to those who support them. This is clearly evident with the wicked that infest church life. They surround themselves with sycophants who will do their bidding. When you see ministers and preachers lawyered up or using attack dogs on social media and the Internet to pounce on critics, you see a fleeing, wicked man.





3. The wicked flee in terror from true challenges. This is the case of the schoolyard bully. Rarely does the bully pick on the strong kids. He picks on the ones who have a weakness. The wicked capitalize on ways to force their methods without real opposition. They refuse to engage intellectually or physically, depending on the situation. There is no willingness to take a challenge. Rather, the goal is to eliminate, by slices, opposition, for the strong man is less of a challenge isolated.





4. The wicked flee in terror from ghosts and whispers. Consider the infamous telegram, reportedly sent by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to twelve prominent gentleman of London: “All is discovered, flee at once.” The story tells that these were sent anonymously and to twelve men he knew of, but did not know personally. Within 24 hours, all dozen had left the country, never to return. While I cannot quite verify the veracity of that story, it illustrates the point: who was pursuing? No one—but they fled, because wickedness was hidden in their lives.





Now, what of the righteous?





Bold as a lion, Solomon says. Bold. Ferocious as needed. Unafraid, sometimes foolishly: there are reports of lions in Africa at the first arrivals of European hunters that stood their ground and were shot where they stood. Bold, but foolish.





Which is sometimes where the righteous are—bold even in the face of superior technology. Bold, even against those things where there is no chance of victory.





Why?





Because ultimately, the boldness of the righteous is locked into their relationship with the righteousness of the Lion of Judah, Jesus Himself. He is bold, for He is victorious.





That, my friends, is my take on Proverbs 28:1

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 2014: Proverbs 27 by Doug

Proverbs 27 presents us with three verses today. I would continue to advise you that you should read the whole chapter, because context is critical in understanding writing. We should never forget that Proverbs, while exceedingly “tweet-able,” was written in an age of long reading—and of oral reading.





Let’s look at each of the three verses:





First, Proverbs 27:1 tells us not to boast about tomorrow. Why? Because you don’t even know what today is going to bring. Wisdom does not brag about what we will accomplish without considering all the unknown factors. I do think we need to keep this balanced by remembering the usage of the word “boast” here. This verse does not decry planning—far be it for anything in Proverbs to be seen as anti-planning. Rather, this is about claiming that you will be, do, or become super-awesome tomorrow.





And we see this in movies as they reflect life, don’t we? Right after the extended monologue about his awesomeness and plans to rule the world, the villain then slips and falls off his horse. Or a superstar proclaims their great and amazing talent just before their next rehab stint. We see politicians blather on and on about how they are going to pass great laws or force great actions, and the next day a court, Congress, or President shuts down that plan.





The wise have intentions followed by actions, which will someday see results. They do not have boasting. Consider William Wilberforce: he never knew what day would bring forth the end of the slave trade in the British Empire, and I find nothing that indicates he boasted of his success in its demise. This showed wisdom: he never knew, until the law was signed, whether the day would bring forth success.





Second, Proverbs 27:11 encourages wisdom from a son, which will answer the criticism of the father. This connects right back to 27:1—do not boast about what you are doing, until you know what it brings forth. Does your parenting produce wise offspring? You don’t actually know that for years, do you? Does your education system work? Your philosophy? Your governing practices?





Perhaps we would be wise to not judge a system until we see its fruit. This is not to say we turn a blind eye to abuse and sin: waiting to see if the next generation of Nazis was still evil would have been horribly wrong. Likewise, abusive parenting should be stopped. But what of the debate about less hostile governing plans?





I think the same can be seen in education. We have to evaluate based on the results, but to judge, for example, a professor on the end-of-semester evaluations of students is pretty silly. Sure, I thought Drs. Vang, Hays, Carter, and Duvall were mean people at the end of the semester. Yet now, I think very differently. A teacher that can get students to pass a test may not be a teacher that inspires life-long learning and growth.





Finally, Proverbs 27:21, which points out that we are tested by our praise. We are tested by what people say about us. When praised, do we become puffed up? What about pursuing people’s praise?





Do we seek wisdom and to avoid reproach, or do we pursue praise? What drives our boasting about tomorrow and our planning?





All three of these interact well together. They speak, ultimately, to our need to trust in God for tomorrow. To entrust God with the results of walking in obedience, and to let His “well done, good and faithful servant,” be the praise we desire.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 2014: Proverbs 26 by Doug

Going on into Proverbs 26, we are in that portion of the book of Proverbs that feels like a hodge-podge. There are verses about speech, fools, wine, slackers, and dozens of other subjects just tossed together. This is why some people see Proverbs as a disparate collection of sayings.






I would suggest a different viewpoint. Proverbs is written to a holistic society. There is little separation between work and worship; faith and family; discipleship and learning. All of these run together or overlap. What good would a subject segregated book of Proverbs be in that case? You would find yourself flipping between the section on fools and the section on wine—or would those go together, but slackers go elsewhere?





Instead, Solomon presents us with life as we know it: everything connects. Your work life impacts your worship of God—and vice versa. Your home life affects your business which affects your romantic life which impacts your use of alcohol. The Proverbs look like a hodge-podge partially because life is a hodge-podge. The Proverbs speak to life, life lived in worshipful fear of God.





And they’re not meant to be read only individually, but the idea is that you would systematically read the whole of them, learning and applying and rereading as you go.





With that in mind, let us pull one out for the day. Proverbs 26:1 stands forward in my mind from today’s reading. One ought not honor a fool, anymore than one hopes for snow in summer or wants rain in harvest. Now, before I lived in agricultural territory, I used to hope for snow in summer! Even though I thought it impossible, I wanted it.





Which is how I did understand that phrasing. Honor for fools was, basically, impossible. Or something that only happened far off in the mountains. It was a foreign concept.





This is not the case. This verse has nothing to do with the impossibility of honor for a fool—or nearly nothing. Remember the primary audience of Proverbs: Solomon’s sons, who would be able to honor anybody they chose.





The issue here is one of helpfulness and appropriateness. I can assure: there is no farmer who wants the cold necessary for snow while rice is sprouting or corn is tasseling. It would be a disaster. An absolute agricultural disaster.





So is the case of honoring fools. At best, it can be an inconvenience: rain in harvest starts as an inconvenience, and then can destroy a harvest because it rots in the fields. More likely, it is like snow in summer: it may seem like a good thing, but if you know what is going on, you see that destruction can be the only outcome.





Be careful who you honor. Be wary of honoring fools, whether it be with your vote, your money, or your following. Because in the end, after the refreshing blast of cold, when the barns are empty, you will see what became of it. The fool will move on, and leave the rest of us starving.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

January 2014: Proverbs 25 by Doug

Looking at chapter 25 today, let’s take a peek at Proverbs 25:11. First, though, a word about the overall chapter. Hebrew poetry does not work quite like English poetry. It is demonstrated in rhythm (a Hebrew word if there is one in English: no vowels!) and formation, not in rhyme scheme.





Proverbs is not quite written in poetry, but there are similarities. Many of the couplets in Proverbs show poetic feature, and the result is something that, while clear in Hebrew, needs a little help to be clear in English.





This is why you will find the ESV render this verse as “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver,” while the NASB renders thusly “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”





Which is right? The answer is “Both.” The comparative structure can go either way, and differing Hebrew experts give differing answers. I cannot claim skill enough to rule here. You should just be aware that your Bible, nor your pastor-teacher’s Bible, is wrong. The translators just took Hebrew from different professors.





A further note of interest in the language is the concept given to the word “word.” While NASB and ESV leave it as word, NLT takes it as “timely advice.” NIV goes right ‘round the bend and renders it as “ruling,” holding on to the idea that Proverbs is addressed from one king to another. While that background is accurate, you lose some of the applicability by making this only about rulings.





Now, on to the content itself. The gold and silver, even with the apples involved, is more likely about artistic beauty than about food. Or, if the stomach rules the eye, these are golden delicious apples on nice plates. Either way, again, almost does not matter. The concept is something exceptionally pleasing and hard to come by.





So is the word fitly spoken, or presented properly. A good word at the right time is not the easiest of things to come by. Though it is a remarkable help, it is not the most common possession.





Further, and this is why I like the mixed image of fruit and gold, it is not an accidental moment. Consider this:





1. Fruit takes time to grow. Apple trees must be planted, tended, and then produce in good season. One rarely finds an accidental apple. It may be accidental to this generation, but was intentional in the last.





2. Jewelry, art, precious metalwork require skill. They require training, practice. Though there are natural artists who need less practice, all need training.





Now, apply this idea. What do we see?





If we are going to be the refreshing blessing of people who speak rightly, then it’s going to take time to cultivate and craft. Not to learn guile and subterfuge—that’s the work of Washington DC, not of God-honoring people.





Rather, we need to so soak the perfect words, from the perfect Word, so that we are able to present the fit word in its good time. This is our joy and privilege.

Friday, January 24, 2014

January 2014: Proverbs 24 by Doug

Today, let us take a look at Proverbs 24:11. Deliver those who are being taken away to death. Or you could render that first verb as “bring back,” “rescue,” or even “snatch!” It shows up in the statement of Reuben about Joseph in Genesis 37, Exodus 12 about God’s grace to Israel, and throughout the Old Testament in the sense of taking someone from a bad situation into a good one.

 

Then, let us think about the situation envisioned here. The image is perhaps of captives after battle or slaves being cast aside. Any way that you look at it, those being taken away have no volition in the matter. These folks are doomed, end of story. And they are without any possible opportunity to deliver themselves.

 

Consider the hopelessness of those being taken away. Consider how it must feel. And then consider this: Solomon does not command that the reason they are taken away be asked. Just that they be delivered.

 

This is part of the overall theme of justice in the book of Proverbs. As we look at living in fear of YHWH, justice comes out clearly. This justice is not based on an earthly sliding scale, but it reflects God’s standards. Further, justice in much of the Old Testament appears to reflect that some people need an opportunity to show, on their own, whether or not they will follow God. The results of disobedience are then their own, not heritage or bad fortune.

 

With that in mind, let us consider who may be taken away:

 

First, you have the weak innocent. These are children or the aged or the infirm. These can do nothing to stop the ones taking them to death. This is significant, because every society picks individuals who are the weak innocent like this. Inconvenient child? Kill it. Old person live too long? Plop them in a nursing home, pump them full of meds, and then pull the plug. Illnesses or handicaps? Shouldn’t we encourage these to consider “quality of life” or the burden of their care? No reason for the expense, is there?

 

Those who live in fear of YHWH, the wise and the godly, stand firmly against any of this nonsense. Further, they will put forth the effort to make the rescue happen. Our lives go in with our words—though there are times when the red tape trips up our best intentions.

 

Second, you have the weak. These are those being taken away to death because they lack power. The question of innocence is irrelevant, because this is happening due to injustice and not guilt. These would be the victims of racial violence in the Klan era or the victims of the Nazis: whatever crime or wrong may have been perpetrated, death was due to who they were, not what they had done.

 

Those who live in fear of YHWH, the wise and the godly, stand firmly against this nonsense. Politically, economically, in all ways possible we are to fight these offenses against God. Consider the situation of immigrants or refugees, of disabled or sick, of veterans who have returned from war to lost jobs: these are taken away by loss of power.

 

This leads to the last point I want to hit: taken away to death may not be instantaneous. Often this drives our response time, but we must consider the slow death of hunger or economic destitution. It is just as fatal to wall the Jews into a ghetto as to send them to Auschwitz: one method is simply faster. Just because an injustice allows people to linger on the path to death does not mean it must not be fought against.

 

We should rescue as we best can. Sometimes, this will require personal risk. Such is the nature of life in fear of YHWH: we rely, we trust, and we act.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Careful Offerings: Numbers 28

In Summary: Numbers 28 comes back to the laws of offerings for the people of Israel. There are several rules and laws regarding offerings, all of which are covered in Leviticus.

However, it’s important to realize that the end of Numbers addresses an entirely new generation of Israelites than lived in Leviticus. Remember, after all, that Moses, Joshua, and Caleb are the only surviving men from the incident of the spies

With this in mind, I think we can understand why the rules are restated in this and following chapters. Additionally, we see that God is reminding the Israelites of some of the daily, continual offerings and sacrifices that are to be made. During 38 years of wandering the wilderness, these may have been neglected. Or they were simply not started, awaiting arrival in the Promised Land.

Any direction you look at it, these are sacrifices are important. It is part of the worship of God in the Old Testament, and we as Christians see these as foreword looking to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

In Focus: I think one passage that is worth a focused look is Numbers 28:2. God commands that the Israelites be careful to present the offering. Think on that.

Careful. What does it mean to be careful? Careful means to watch over all the details. Careful means to notice and fill in the all the blanks.

A careful observance of God’s commanded sacrifices will note all of the requirements. The perfect animals. The right times. The proper people involved.

Careful also speaks to the investment of time before, during, and after. One does not count a sacrifice as carefully offered if it was not considered beforehand. Neither does it count as careful sacrifice when there’s no thought afterward.


In Practice: How, then, does this transfer into the New Testament church? We do not, after all, need to offer sacrifices like cattle or sheep. How does this matter?

First, we ought to be careful with our gratitude. Every day, the redeemed of Christ ought to carefully note how He has saved us and redeemed us. Being paid for by the blood of Jesus should cause us to be more grateful than if we had to bring sheep.

Second, we ought to be careful with our lives. Our sacrifice, according to Romans 12:1, is living. We live in obedience to the commands of Jesus, we walk through life loving our neighbors.

Third, we ought to be careful with our gathering. Our service to Christ is not a solo act. We serve with a body, within a body, as part of the fellowship of believers. Are we careful to guard our time to prepare for this? Or do we hope that showing up is enough?


In Nerdiness: The biggest nerd part of this I found is the whole idea of a soothing aroma in the offering. As in, it smells good?

Really?

This is part of the concept of anthropomorphism in Scripture. This is a literary term that reflects using human-sounding terms to describe non-human figures. God does not need air freshener, but that’s the best way to make it clear to us.

And the more I think about it, I would suggest that the constant fire and smoke might be less than pleasing to some people. But sacrifice that is convenient is not really a sacrifice, is it?

January 2014: Proverbs 23 by Doug

I had some difficulty picking a focal point for today’s Proverbs writing. Why? Most of the options are not single-verse Proverbs. It’s important to always keep verses in context and to read complete sentences. We are especially driven in Proverbs to skip that, but we shouldn’t.

 

I did find interesting, though, Proverbs 23:1 and its following verse. Partly because, as you can see if you compare various translations, 23:1 can be a standalone sentence or it can connect to 23:2. I happen to like it as separate sentences:

 

First, 23:1 warns you in general about the delicate nature of dining with those in power. Consider what they offer, because it can be treacherous.

 

Consider also whether or not you really want it, because that’s the other aspect here. It is easy to envy the possessions of kings, but what of the responsibility? The world is filled with rulers who take the power and possessions and disdain the responsibility—representative democracy was born out of the abundance of that nonsense. Yet even elective officials suffer the same disease.

 

Consider the responsibility that comes with the high table.

 

Now, you can add Proverbs 23:2 to the sentence and just make it about the food and controlling your physical appetite, but I think there’s more here. Control yourself, and become not indebted to those in power.

 

They may only desire to stay in power.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Seven points of organization: Acts 6

I thought I would share a few thoughts that I had to turn in for class. We were looking at Acts 6 and considering what ideas we could draw about church organization from that chapter. You’ll need to look up Acts 6:1-7 to get the full context. Here’s what I came up with:

First, the church leadership was listening to the feedback from the organization as a whole. While there is no textual evidence of a formal feedback structure, it is evident that the Apostles were aware of the complaint. This is a positive organizational practice: communication between all parts of the organization.

 

Second, even as the disciples were increasing (v. 1), the organization of the church still broke down tasks that needed done. This is seen by the statement that there was a daily distribution to widows, but the Apostles are not involved personally at the outset. It is a task being handled by others, even though it is not being handled perfectly.

 

Third, facing the problem, church leadership still presented the problem to the body as a whole. They did not, however, farm the idea out for someone else to solve. Instead, the Apostles had gathered, one can assumed had prayed, and then presented their recommended solution to the body. The body then assented and participated in selecting the individuals to correct the problem.

 

This process of leadership deserves extra consideration. A small organization, one made up of eleven to twelve members like the Apostles, can consider nearly all issues together. While the process at this stage is a little cumbersome, like jury duty, it is still feasible. However, as the body grows, this process becomes impossible. The 120 believers of Acts 2 become the 5000+ of Acts 2, and the body continues to grow.

 

Therefore, leadership must adjust the methods of problem-solving. The Apostles take on themselves the responsibility of problem-solving, though they do not impose the solution on the church. The church is presented with the solution and agrees to the idea.

 

This carries into the practice of an organization with leaders. While the ideas can come from anywhere in the organization, the leadership has the purpose of considering all possible ideas and presenting the best one to the group for consideration. This allows a responsive organization that does not spend excessive time in deliberation.

 

Fourth, the Apostles present the solution to the organization, but then crowdsource the details. Rather than assuming that the leadership, twelve, knows the best choices out of over 5000, the Apostles allow the crowd to choose from those who meet specific guidelines.

 

Fifth, the organizational guidelines for service are based in character more than competence. The distribution of food to widows was not a highly technical skill like metalworking or scribal work would have been. There was no need to specify the food weighing skills for these seven men, only to specify their character.

 

Sixth, the seven appointees are not the only ones with a hand in the work appointed. Note verse 3 states that they are “in charge” of the task, but this does not exclude the recruitment of others to aid in serving. In all likelihood, if the task is this large, the seven will have many in assistance. Their role is to ensure proper balance and distribution.

 

Seventh, this method allowed individuals to continue in their best fit responsibilities. The Apostles, eyewitnesses of Christ, were freed from responsibilities that others could fulfill. This allowed them to focus on doing what they were the only ones capable of doing: testifying to the entire life and ministry of Jesus.

January 2014: Proverbs 22 by Doug

Throughout the chapter, we see echoed the idea that wisdom is better than any other asset, for all other things can be obtained wisely. Unless you don’t really need it, and then wisdom guides against it. And there is Proverbs 22:13, which is one of my favorite Bible verses.

 

Let’s turn our attention to Proverbs 22:11 and consider its implications.

 

First, do not overlook the plain intent of the passage. Purity of heart and gracious speech are being commended by Solomon here. Our first task is to know what these are.

 

Purity of heart has to do with the motivations of a person. While it is true that we never know a person’s motivations (unless they tell us, and then we still have a level of uncertainty), typically their actions and words will reveal their motivation.

 

Gracious speech is not about flattering speech, but about how we present the truth. Flattery is telling someone what they want to hear, but graciousness presents the truth in as clear and gentle a manner possible.

 

These two concepts are not about hiding truth or deceiving anyone.

 

Second, let us look to how the person with these qualities is known. The king is his friend: this assumes a righteous king, something that does not always occur. However, the King of Kings is always on the throne to be considered in this passage. One who is gracious and pure is acting as a friend to the Lord Jesus.

 

Much could be said about kings who do not want friends who are pure of heart, but that’s another post. Focus on this: be who you know God has commanded you to be. Let the rest fall out as it does.

Service/Sermon Recap for October 25 2020

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