Monday, February 24, 2014

Sermon Recap: February 23

Morning Audio link is here for Holiness is not an Option: Leviticus 19

Short Outline:

I 1. Holiness

2. Holiness in worship
3. Holiness in family
4. Holiness in community
5. Holiness in compassion

Goal:

A. Commitment to Christ for Imputed Holiness
B. Commitment to obedience for practiced holiness
C. Commitment to community for demonstrated holiness
D. Commitment to service for recognized holiness

Holiness: Not an Option: Leviticus 19 February 23 AM from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

 

Evening Q&A Raw link is here: I’ve decided to just put this up—it’s an hour long, and you may nor may not be able to hear it well, but this is the Q&A session from Sunday Night. It was good—excellent questions from various people. Due to its length, I didn’t actually preach Smile https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B662DupsSRc3ZFhQM3hRM1hTNWM/edit?usp=sharing

Evening intended outline focused on Leviticus 18 and the command to not be like the Egyptians. We are to leave behind our sin, not drag it with us as we go.

 

Extend Morning Outline is here:

Chapter 1: Sermon 11: Not an Option: Leviticus 19:1-15

1.1. Scripture intro
Leviticus 19:1-18

1.2. Theoretical:
1. Holiness: what is holiness? Separated for a specific task. In Scripture, it is a word that is first used to describe God and then applied to His people.

Holiness comes from God first, and is divided from normal and wicked.

2. Holiness in worship: Holiness in worship involves giving God the primacy, not the split-attention or secondary approach.

Holiness in worship requires that nothing else vie for our allegiance. Nothing--not even spiritual leaders

Holiness in worship allots time in large units, not micromeasures
3. Holiness in family: Holiness in family involves not separating the faith from how we live out in our closest relationships.

Holiness in family respects the heritage of faith; respects God-honoring authority in the family; defends against God-dishonoring behavior in the family.

4. Holiness in community: Holiness in community involves being honest in our work; honest in our business; honest in our relationships.

Holiness in community requires that we work for the benefit of our neighbor, including reproving sin (Leviticus 19:17); that we not bear grudges; that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

5. Holiness in compassion: Holiness in compassion involves caring for others. That we not cause difficult circumstances to get worse, and that we do what we can to alleviate them. .

Holiness in compassion draws us to provide opportunities to overcome obstacles; that we do no harm to strangers; that we open our hearts to those who would draw near to God.

1.3. A. Commitment to Christ for Imputed Holiness
It is beyond our ability to be holy as God is holy.

Therefore: we must come to Jesus first. Salvation is not only about the canceled debt; it is about being counted as holy.

This is assured and final--we respond to grace with action.

1.4. B. Commitment to obedience for practiced holiness
What do we do?

Our lives should reflect holiness:

Not as a crude list of to-dos and not-to-dos--a life of holiness is not about "managing sinfulness" (Dallas Willard terminology) but about learning to be like Jesus.

Positive action for following Jesus: deliberately fill our lives with the things of God

1.5. C. Commitment to community for demonstrated holiness
This is about how we live together

Practicals: honesty, no harm--do what is for the benefit of others.

YES. YOU WILL BE WRONGED AT TIMES. YOU WILL BE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF.

What of it? Do we not gain advantage from Christ? If we are sustained by grace and forgiveness, then are we not to give it as well?

Picturing sins against us as being against God even more will aid in this concept.

1.6. D. Commitment to service for recognized holiness

This is how we serve the world

Simple ways: food and drink.

Complex ways: legal environments and public policies.

Complicated ways: avoiding partiality to the rich or the poor--focusing on fair judgment before the Lord God.

1.7. Conclusion
Rebuild your lives oriented toward holiness. Many of you are going into the season where you will do the same things, in the same ways, that you always have--

Why? Why do we never make adjustments to the holiness of God?

Change. Consider.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Book: ReCreatable by Kevin Scott

I had taken a bit of a blog break this week, but the review is due today. I’m hopeful to be back on track in the coming week.

Kregel Publications brings us ReCreatable by Kevin Scott. It’s available in print or on Kindle. The print version runs 230 pages. My review copy is definitely an ARC-type, printed a little different than the to-be-sold version, so your might look a little different. And I won’t comment on binding strength, because mine is not going to hold up—it’s not meant to.

ReCreatable coverReCreatable is a look into how God works in broken lives. From the title, Scott is not exploring how God “fixes” lives. He is explaining how God “recreates” lives. What has been broken, God does not glue back together. He makes new instead.

Overall, though, ReCreatable is not a fluffy book. Scott’s work here is not to tell you that it is all going to be okay. He presents a practical approach to matching the theology of a God who makes new with the life of a believer who needs it.

I like Scott’s presentation. He gives 12 practical chapters, each with good discussion questions. These are organized around an overall statement of Reflect His Glory…By Living Well…In a Pocket of the Kingdom. There is an additional discussion guide in the back for small group use.

I find only one aspect of ReCreatable that I would register an issue with. While I understand Scott’s perspective in his chapter on Scripture, I think there is a risk here in the guidance given. He points out that reading the Bible daily may not fit a person’s personality, and that it is better to read the Bible in the same manner one would read a book. For me, I would not be comfortable with this. First of all, Scott has a seminary degree, which means he is more familiar with Scripture than the average reader. It becomes natural, then, for him to be able to ruminate on the text without reading it due to a strong basis in it. Second, I think there is a discipline of building a love for Scripture through reading it daily, making it part of the habit. I would present the idea that we should not limit our reading to just set pieces in the day, but I found that chapter sits just wrong with me.

ReCreatable, though, is still a well-worth-it book. I think that the overall presentation is excellent, and a great opening into fundamental discipleship. If you are looking for a good group study or a self-study to go alongside your Bible reading and study, this one is worth a run through.

I did receive a copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for the review.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel

And it may not even be an oncoming train!

Those of you who know me know that I have been pursuing a graduate degree for the last several years.

The last 12 years, to be precise.

You see, being a Baptist minister is an interesting career field. First of all, it’s supposed to be a calling more than a career, but all ministers say that. Then many of us go to work and get paid for it. That’s part of the interesting aspect: few people blend all the stuff of life into one all-encompassing life quite the same way ministers do. We go to church at work and go to work at church; we entangle religion and employment, business and pleasure, faith and finance all in ways that are beautiful when it works. And a fat mess when it doesn’t.

Many religious groups require a minister to hold a basic level of education before they enter the ministry. Then, there is a higher level of mandatory training before one is “ordained,” usually a gateway process to being placed in responsibility for a church.

Baptists, though, have no formal requirements of this nature. True, there are some churches that have educational requirements, and many of our denominational boards have requirements. But the local church can call as pastor anyone they choose. (Save the spiritual Jesus Juke: yes, it should be whomever the Lord calls.)

So, I became a pastor with a college degree and no seminary training. Seminary is the basic professional school for ministry: lawyers have law school, doctors have med school, clowns have clown school. Ministers have seminary. The idea is that seminary is a graduate-level education, entered into by someone with a bachelor’s degree.

In seminary, you do in-depth academic study of the Bible. You study Christian History; Theology; Missions. You take courses in practical matters like church administration and sermon preparation. It’s a useful thing.

It’s just not mandatory.

So, while I started in ministry with a college degree that included Biblical studies, I needed the official education. In time, I came to be ordained, again without the education. I am the full-time pastor of a church, and have been for several years now.

Along the way, I have studied some, and taken some classes. The typical seminary degree should be completed in 3 to 4 years. I started in 2002.

Next week, I should finish my last final. My last paper gets turned in—tomorrow.

I have wanted to quit, and still kind of do. I’ll open up more of that later.

For now, I am coming up for air and realizing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it may not be a train after all. I may get through this. When I do, I’ll hopefully have a lot more brain power for other things.

Which means a better effort on writing both here and elsewhere, and hopefully being better at what I do when I don’t touch a keyboard. Thanks for sticking it ought through this far. It’s been a bumpy ride.

Sermon Recap for February 16

Well, I’m a few days late and a few keystrokes short, but here we go:

First, observations. We were blessed to celebrate a baptism Sunday night, so that shaved off some sermon length. According to many, that made the evening service doubly-blessed. I continue to record the question/answer time, but I still don’t quite know what to do with it for publication.

Morning Audio is here

Morning Video:

February 16 AM: Buildings, Offerings, and Christians from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Evening Audio is here

Evening Video:

February 16 PM Introducing Leviticus from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

 

Concluding Notes:

1. I do have the rough audio of Sunday Night’s Q&A session, but I’m not sure yet that it’s useful for posting.

2. I am not sure how to improve video quality with the current equipment.

3. If you want to subscribe, here’s a list:

A. iTunes for audio subscription link is here.

B. General Audio RSS feed for other programs is here.

C. If you’re a Stitcher User, the link is here

D. For Vimeo Video, subscribe to this channel: https://vimeo.com/channels/almyrafbc

E. For Youtube Video, subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/user/dheagle93/

4. Yes, I think I’m not getting a lot of plays on each service or hits on each blog, but in total it’s a decent reach. A social media expert might suggest changes, but this is free-to-cheap, where I have to live right now.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Food Friday: Tamagoyaki-style Omelets

I must admit: I love the food of other cultures. I will admit that I often try to copy especially Japanese or Chinese cuisine, and typically do so badly. While the idea of a culinary “Tour of Italy” to examine the differing culinary regions of that culture intrigues me, I would love to take a tour of all the differing food regions of China. Then follow it up with a short trip through Japan, and a stopover in Korea.

So, when I see ideas from an Asian cuisine that I’ve never seen, I tend to chase them down. Then, when I learn a little more, I either abandon them or try it out. Today, I am going to hit one that I tried out, and so far seem to be doing okay with: the Tamagoyaki. Now, as I titled this, I will call my work a tamagoyaki-style omelet, because it’s not completely inline with Japanese tradition.

What is a tamagoyaki? It’s basically an omelet, but instead of a fold like you might expect, it’s a rolled omelet. The word tamagoyaki allegedly means “Grilled Egg,” but my Japanese is very, very bad. It could mean “food that goofy American man thinks is Japanese but we don’t eat it.”2014-01-27 07.45.15

As a rolled omelet, you can add fillings and such to it, but it’s mainly about the egg. Here’s a picture of one of mine:

See how you have the layers? That’s the idea.

The recipe concept is simple. I’m going to link a video at the bottom where there is a more authentic recipe, but I’m all about the simple, and that’s what I’m going to give you. Here are your ingredients:

3 eggs at room temperature

vegetable oil

salt & pepper to taste

cheese optional

What? You wanted more? I like a specialized piece of equipment for this. It’s called a Tamagoyaki Pan. I got one for Christmas, and it looks like this:

It’s a rectangular pan, about 7 inches long and 5 inches wide. That’s it. I use mine almost every morning these days. Here is the basic process:

1. I get up, I set 2 or 3 eggs out to warm up toward room temperature. (Health experts, go away.) Out of laziness, usually I just put them in the pan, still in the shell. Then I go shower, etc…

2. I take the eggs out of the pan, and preheat the pan while scrambling the eggs in a bowl. I have found that using my larger electric burner works better. It’s a 7 inch diameter burner, so there is wasted space on the sides, but it heats the whole pan evenly.

3. Into the heated pan, I put a little bit of vegetable oil. Not much! Just enough that, when heated, puts a light coating on the whole pan. You’re out to cook the eggs with pan-heat, not fry them with oil-heat.

4. Eggs are scrambled, the pan is hot, so I pour just enough egg into the pan that it covers the whole pan very thinly. Think: pour egg into one spot, then tilt pan to make the eggs run across the surface. I use a silicone spatula to flatten them in well.

5. Now comes the fun part: flavor! As that first layer is getting done, salt and pepper it. Add some cheese across it if you like—or put a cheese stick at the far end of the pan (away from the handle).

6. Roll the eggs from the far end back to you. You’re creating a spiral. Then, slide the rolled-up egg to the far end.

7. Repeat the egg pour-in. Tilt the pan to get some egg under the roll at the end. As it is getting done, you can season or not season it, depending on your preference. I have done cheese in one roll, ham in the next for a ham and cheese omelet.

8. Repeat the roll and slide maneuver. I find that 3 eggs is my limit, by the way, for manageable size. That results usually  in 4 pours, but sometimes 5. Frequently, I do 2 eggs and that’s 3 pours.

2014-01-26 07.33.319. Once you’ve gotten all of your eggs cooked and rolled up, you have something that really looks like a burrito. See?

10. Let it sit in the pan, taken off the heat, for about 2 minutes. (Or time it like I do—how long does it take to pour the coffee?) Then, on to the plate for serving or the board for cutting. You can cut into multiple slices 2014-01-27 07.45.10for easy eating, or just do what we do: cut it in half for perfect sharing.

That’s breakfast. The taste is just different enough—and you can layer in various items if you want to. Ours are frequently just one slice of cheese to the 3 eggs, with pepper and salt.

It’s quicker than it sounds—but it takes some practice. Come on over sometime and we’ll split an omelet!

Now, I’ll give you what you need: a video from a professional. This is what I watched to figure out how to do this from—he uses cooking chopsticks, and I have not mastered that yet.

 

And he made little hearts…

February 2014: Proverbs 14 by Doug

Death is coming. Death is coming for you, and death is coming for me.






The real question is not whether death comes. It is how death comes, and when death comes. It is further a question of whether or not death as we see it is the end.





So we come to Proverbs 14:32 and the contrast of the wicked and the righteous. The considerations are these: what is it to be wicked, and what to be righteous? This is what we must know, because the results follow the actions.





This seems like common sense, but so often we do not quite get things that are common sense without talking them out. So, here it is plainly: understand the results you want. Define them. Write them down.





Then figure out how to get there. Now, I know that ideally we want to worship God because it’s the right thing, it’s the thing we are created for, and even if there is no other benefit, truth for truth’s sake matters. Let us be realistic: most of the time, we do not start from there. We do not start to pursue righteousness because we want good things for their own sake.





We are motivated by our need. One of our greatest needs is to address the question of what happens after death. What becomes of us? Are we nothing? Do we return to cosmic matter and fracture into oblivion?





If we are seeking a refuge for those times, then we should consider walking in righteousness. How? By serving God. As we do so, we see just how challenging that is—and see our need for a Saviour. Then we recognize God’s grace and serve Him because He first loved us. It is a chain.





The wicked, though, go down, and down hard, by their own faults. It is so often that we want to blame others for our failings, but in the end, it is no one’s fault but our own.





The reality is that many times we have exactly the results we have sought. We either get the destruction we have wrought, or we have a refuge when it all goes wrong.





Catch that concept? It does not always go right for the righteous. The righteous just have a refuge. If that is what you seek, then consider your ways now, before calamity comes on you.





There are some intriguing issues here about rendering and that final phrase. It could be taken as “in his misfortune” instead of “when he dies.” I’m not sure where I would settle that—I’ve gone with the reading used by the NASB team.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Justice Will Happen: Numbers 31

In Summary: This chapter recounts the battle between Israel and Midian. Having fallen to the temptations of the Midianites earlier in the narrative, God commands the Israelites to attack.

There’s something about that, isn’t there? Had the Midianites been content to let Israel pass by, God would have saved judgment on the Midianites for some other time. Yet they had to go after the people of God, who held no harm for them. This brought destruction. I think there is something to that in terms of how God reacts to those who oppose Him. When one opposes God, He continues to work to bring us back to Him. He extends grace in a wide path.

Yet when we start to cross over into harming others, God draws a firmer line. It is true that He still allows evil in this world, but I would suggest the argument that this evil opens opportunities for God’s people to do good. This allows us to live up to the name of Christian: one who is like Christ but smaller. He came into a world of evil and did the ultimate good—we can do smaller goods that point people to Him.

Back to the chapter, we see the overall battle is a rout. The Israelites lose no soldiers, while Midian is defeated and slaughtered. This is an area that continues to trouble me, and others, regarding warfare in the Old Testament. Was it truly necessary to execute everyone? Apparently it was commonplace, but I cannot wrap my head around it as a good thing.

Going forward, the Israelites then breakdown and divide the spoils of war between those who fought and those who stayed behind. This was not a matter of rewarding the lazy. Remember that God only called for one thousand from each tribe, so many who would have fought were not needed. Additionally, the Levites were not part of the fighting forces, so these also were left out. However, those who had the risk received the greater reward. (Numbers 31:25-27)

In Focus: I would put the spotlight on Numbers 31:8. Notice who is put to death, along with the kings of the Midianites: Balaam, son of Beor. Remember him from earlier in Numbers?

All of his posturing about only doing what YHWH commanded, all of his religious talk meant exactly nothing. I do not think there is anything in this passage that supports the idea that he was among the enemies of God doing mission work. Instead, we get the sense that he is there advising the Midianites in their opposition to Israel.

And in the end, all the wealth he received from Balak came to naught. It ends up part of the plunder of the people of Israel. Had Balaam listened to God and not gone (Numbers 22) or bailed out after God blessed Israel (Numbers 23-24), he would have lived—and perhaps profited. Instead, he spoke more than what YHWH gave him to say, because he advised Balak how to trap Israel.

In Practice: So, let us think on Balaam one more time here. God gave him a prohibition, a commandment regarding his behavior. And Balaam chafed at it. First he chafed at not going. Then he seemed to chafe at restricting his speech. Then he chafed at seeking YHWH for words and spoke his own oracle of blessing. In the end, he chafed at leaving it alone.

We do that, don’t we? We chafe at the commands of God. We think God does not know well enough, and so we get around His commands. We find loopholes or issue provisos. We look for ways to not do what we should or to do what we should not.

In the end, it ends up leading to death. And then we’re surprised. We wonder what happened…I wonder if Balaam thought the same. Why is this happening? He should have turned back. So should we—the Word of God is plain on this, that we must flee to Christ first, and then follow Him.

In Nerdiness:  I think there is something interesting in Numbers 31:28 and Numbers 31:30. The offering to YHWH from the warriors (the first verse) is 1 from 500. The offering from the Israelites that did not fight is 1 from 50.

I think there may be something here that sets a precedent of giving thanks to God for those who fight on our behalf. Even to the point of offering sacrifices on their behalf rather than asking it from them. I am not fully certain how much we should base on this, but you see a precedent here that sounds a lot like a support-the-veteran’s event in Israel.

It is noteworthy that items were not given to the warriors but all was part of the worship. I’m not sure how (or exactly if) this should apply in a Christian church. But it is part of our Scriptures, and should be examined.

February 2014: Proverbs 13 by Doug

Well, I’m running a lot late today. I didn’t get off to a fast start, and there was work to be done that could not be postponed. We are chasing into Proverbs 13 today, and Proverbs 13:12 has the perfect verse for Valentine’s Day tomorrow:






Hope deferred makes the heart sick


But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.





Why do I say that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day? For a couple of reasons. First is this observation that I made to Ann this morning: we know people, including at least one teenager, who will spend more money on Valentine’s Day celebration (or have more money spent on her) than Ann and I have spent our entire married life on each other.





I do not say that to brag, nor is this anti-Valentine’s Day rant. I have depended on American Greetings for my livelihood, and if it weren’t for Valentine’s Day, all the florists would do is funeral, funeral, prom. Which would be sad, sad, depressing. And in truth, in prior romantic pursuits, I have spent a small fortune on Valentine’s Day gifts and celebrations.





The spending on romance shows how hard many of us work to fight off that heart sickness. Or the spending on anti-Valentine’s Day stuff to stave off that heart sickness. Because our hopes are deferred. Our hope to be loved. Our hope to feel valuable to another person. Our hope for a good meal, quietly uninterrupted by children.





May I say to you very plainly: you will not spend enough money tomorrow, or this year, to fill the hole that deferred hope holds open. It is vital to note this, though: that hole? It can only be filled by the right thing, so stuffing any old relationship into it will not work. Remember that a sick heart is better than a crushed one, after all. Not that either option is that pleasant.





The second half of the couplet here is the positive side, though, and it is what you are hoping for. When that desire is fulfilled, there is a firmly rooted, productive, strong force for life. Life that is usually pleasant but that can weather storms. Life that shelters from difficult and produces fruit in good season.





And you know one of the great things about trees? As they mature, they require less direct investment and more personal effort. A newly planted tree needs water hauled to it, fertilizer added, and so forth. But a mature tree has roots that find water in most times. Instead, you spend your effort fending off threats or clearing away debris that’s not needed. It involves more time and wiser money. Rather than one big outflow of annualized fertilizer, you do a little bit here and there.





A tree of life comes from desire fulfilled—in relationships, that’s the desire to love and be loved, to serve and be valuable. Let that be your pursuit for Valentine’s Day. Because any knucklehead can buy chocolate.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book: The Sentinels of Andersonville

Wars breed injustice. Wars fought to perpetuate one injustice breed injustice of incredible magnitude.

What, then, do we do about it? More crucially, what would we have done about it if we were in the middle of it?http://files.tyndale.com/thpdata/images--covers/HiResJpg/978-1-4143-5948-9.jpg

This is the question that I cannot escape after reading Tracy Groot’s The Sentinels of Andersonville, seen here:

At the end of the post, you will find the synopsis and a link to the book trailer, but I want to give you a few short thoughts first.

The Sentinels of Andersonville tells the story of the Civil War prison in Americus, Georgia. It also tells the story that destroy the myth of Southern Charm in war years. While one could attempt to argue that some Southerners did not fight for slavery but for their states, one cannot argue with the horror and atrocity that was the condition in places like Andersonville.

This is not an easy book to read. Many of us, myself included, want to believe that starving prisoners, overcrowded prisons, and willingly allowing diseases like scurvy to run rampant is the behavior of “others” and not of Americans. Yet Americans did this to their fellow man. It shows the rampant dehumanizing effect of slave-holding culture and warfare.

The Sentinels of Andersonville tells history in its most powerful form: through individual stories. While that can make the big picture a little tougher to track, and it gets that way at times, the personalization of tragedy comes through. The issues of non-involvement are set clearly: some people thought they were the only one trying, and could do nothing alone.

In all of this, I found the characters generally sympathetic. At least that ones that should be, that is. I do think Tracy Groot’s dialogue reads like a Northerner trying to sound Southern, but then again…do we Southerners really sound like ourselves all the time? This book goes on the shelf, because this is a corner of history that we need to be aware of, and learn how to avoid repetition. Even our enemies deserve better than Andersonville.

I did receive a copy of this book from Tyndale.

Book Synopsis:

Near the end of the Civil War, inhumane conditions at Andersonville Prison caused the deaths of 13,000 Union soldiers in a single year. In this gripping and affecting novel, Christy Award winner and critically acclaimed author Tracy Groot recaptures the unsung barbaric truths of the historical Andersonville Prison in a riveting reimagining of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Book trailer:

Wednesday Wanderings for February 12

Tonight, the kids are moving from Saul to David….assuming that we continue on and have church tonight.

As we come to this point in the history of Israel, a few questions are worth asking. First of all, what do we learn here about hereditary dynasties? Or, perhaps, about nepotism?

I think the crucial concept here is that faithfulness is part of God’s approval process for His leaders. It is not just a question of who your father was, nor who signed your recommendation form. It is a matter of continued obedience to God’s Word.

The next question that comes into play is the concept of transferrable skills. Do we only look for people with the exact right mix of experiences? Or are we willing to see the analogous skillset from other areas? David’s best work as King of Israel comes when he is shepherding.

What about us? Do we look only at bare skills or concepts that people can understand?

The focus for tonight is that God does not judge as people do. God judges right, all the time, all the way.

The adults will continue on with the Exodus. It’s time to talk about what the 10 Commandments are and are not. We had a great Q&A time Sunday night, including talking about why God waited until the Exodus to give those Commandments.

So, we’ll talk tonight about how the Mosaic Covenant shows the character of God and how sin is not violating the Law. Instead, sin is violating God’s holiness. The Law shows us what His holiness requires.

It’s an important distinction, and it weighs on New Testament-based theology.

Of course, we’ll all be full and sleepy after a great meal from our Feed-the-Flock crew. They’ve got ham, mac-and-cheese, and other goodies for us.

February 2014: Proverbs 12 by Doug

I made a mistake last week. When I setup the bill payments for the first half of the month in our bank, I set one bill to pay from the wrong account. It was a careless error, but an honest one. I wasn’t trying to scam the bank for $385. Just a matter of clicking one thing too few.



Of course, given the banking system in America, the total fees and charges amounted to $58 for a simple mistake. I called the bank to see what could be done, and the very polite customer representative asked me a question. It was this: “How long have you been using online bill pay with us?”


Why did he need to know that? Because if it was a dumb, rookie mistake, he could refund my whole packet of charges. There was a decent chunk of money on the table when he asked me that question. My answer?


I’ve been using online bill pay with my bank for years. At least back to 2010, if not 2007 or 8. Maybe before. Ann and I have been early adopters for bank technology. We were depositing checks from home before anybody put it in a commercial. We’ve eliminated writing checks for almost everything, and done so for years. We burn old checkbooks and get new ones when we move—just recently realized we still had checks with our first Mississippi address on them.


Is it not better to have gotten my money back? The guy prompted me on the answer that would repay the cost of my stupidity. He told me what he needed to hear.


And then I could choose to feed him that story.


Instead, I paid $29 for being stupid and honest. Why?


Because lying lips are an abomination to God. And I’d rather lose money than offend a holy and righteous God. I would rather lose money than take the grace of God, the forgiveness of sins, and treat it lightly.


Sometimes, honesty costs us. In this case, honesty cost me because I had to admit my mistake. I had to confess to my failing, and pay the penalty for it. The bank graciously refunded the second charge on my account because I haven’t made that kind of mistake recently.


This is a micro scale illumination of Proverbs 12:22. Lying may bail us out of trouble in the short run, and may even profit for a time. But far better is the person who fears God, admits to their own errors and sins, and pays the honest price for it.


Of course, it would be better to make no mistakes at all…but that’s not me, is it?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book: A Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 2

Some time back, I reviewed Allen P. Ross’ A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 1. You can find that review here. I am excited that Kregel Academic has furnished a copy of Volume 2 for me to review.

Where would I begin in reviewing Dr. Allen Ross’ work A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 2? This 800+ page hardcover commentary covers Psalms 42-89 and is the companion volume of his excellent first volume in the series. It looks like this: (Click the picture for more info from the publisher)

I will begin, then, with the major fault I could find with this work. It is an excusable fault, and is based in this being the second volume in an intended series. A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 2 starts straight into the Psalms with Psalm 42-43, and provides no introductory material on the Psalms as a whole. It is perfectly reasonable, as the goal here is to build a set, but for the tight-budgeted among us, it is a bit of a hindrance. If you need the comments on Psalm 70 but can only buy one volume at a time, you will be without the overall background.

Beyond this issue, one that is clearly a reasonable decision by Ross and Kregel in publication, I cannot truly fault any aspect of A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 2. Ross again presents his readers with a translation of each Psalm, heavily referenced with footnotes about his word choices in debatable moments. Of great excitement is that the text is peppered with footnotes, which is as God intended reference books to be. Not those pesky endnotes that break up the flow with loads of page-flipping.

Ross’ translations for A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 2 agree with my amateur Hebrew skills, and where he renders differently than major translations remains perfectly logical. He also notes the major textual variations, and continues the habit from volume 1 of treating the titles of the Psalms correctly as part of each Psalm.

From an organizational point-of-view, A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 2 examines Book 2 and Book 3 of the Psalms. Ross presents each Psalm separately, except for Psalms 42 and 43, noting that the evidence for why these may have been one Psalm originally. He first presents the translation of each Psalm, then a summary in outline form.

From there, A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 2 examines details about the setting and nature of each Psalm. Ross then concludes with a look at potential practical application of the Psalm. This includes a look at any Messianic implications found in the Psalm.

As a pastor who has weak Hebrew skills (getting better, hopefully) and a diverse schedule, I find A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 2 extraordinarily helpful in working through Psalms to prepare lessons and sermons. It is perhaps a shade too nerdy to label this as devotional, but it is academically powerful while being practical in concert. If you have a limited budget for books but plan on teaching the Psalms, save up and get A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 2. And if it’s just a matter of shelf space, clear off about five inches for volumes 1 and 2, and make room for volume 3 when it comes.

I heartily recommend this entry from the Kregel Exegetical Library. As always, watch the pricing online. The “new” price from Amazon is reasonable, but there’s a “used” seller with this at $999 right now. That’s just silly and you know it.

I did receive a copy of this book in exchange for the review.

February 2014: Proverbs 11 by Doug

My son has achieved his first two ranks with the Cub Scouts. He went from being a “Cub Scout” to being a “Wolf Cub Scout” last night, pinning on his Bobcat and Wolf badges. I am, as his father, very proud of him. I earned those badges when I was a young lad. I imagine that his PopPop, whose Wolf Cub Scout book I have, is also proud of him. (It was late when we got home, so we didn’t get to call yet.)






Yet when we come to Proverbs 11:2, we see pride as a bad thing. After all, pride is followed by dishonor. Humility is where one finds wisdom.





I think this is another case where English flattens Hebrew words. We have to read, and reread, the text of Scripture with an understanding that the original language has words with a range of meaning, and that our English translations use words with a range of meaning. The English word used to translate a Hebrew word had the closest overlap in range of meaning at the time of translation, from available English words.





In this case, “pride” is used for a Hebrew word that ranges into insolence, self-absorption, presumptuousness. In short, it’s the bad end of “pride”’s range of meaning. We tend to see pride used in translation because that is how the King James translated it, we like our habits, and we like to keep the Proverbs short.





So there is dangerous, destructive pride. It is the kind of pride that refuses guidance, that ignores wisdom, and defies God. It can be found in the celebrity and the anti-celebrity. You know the anti-celebrity, right? It’s that person who is focused on not being “famous” to the point of pridefully pointing all the ways they are better than famous people.





The humble, though, have wisdom. The humble are not weak. Instead, the humble know that there is more to life than just them. The truly humble recognize God as the most important, the source of life, and the source of wisdom. As such, the humble often know much more than the wide world expects them to know.





This is why we must actively seek wisdom. Wisdom is available and clear, but does not go about bragging. We need to learn how to find those who have that humility about themselves which covers a power and wisdom in life.

Not the Whole Story: John 20

In Summary: We are wrapping up John, and will be done with his Gospel next week. I appreciate you who read and keep coming back. More than words can say.

John starts chapter 20 with the trip of Mary Magdalene to the Empty Tomb. The Synoptics show us Mary Magdalene and others going, but John emphasizes her there. It is possible that she makes two trips, one alone and one with other women, or that she arrived before everyone else. It is hard to say with certainty—the fact that she travels “before dark (v. 1)” shows us that she went very early. This was a clock-less society: time was governed by the sun. Making it somewhere in the dark showed a commitment above and beyond.

Then we get the travel of Peter and John to the Tomb. It is empty. They are just not certain what to do with this reality. More on that in a minute.

We get the Upper Room, where there is discussion and debate about what has happened, and then Jesus shows up. Right in the middle of everything. Debating and discussing stops in the presence of Jesus. Fear does not, and the disciples are afraid of many things right now.

Well, most of the disciples. Thomas is not afraid to run an errand or two and miss the gathering. We have no idea why—though I have heard this used as a reason not to miss church! He may have been tending to a loved one. He may have been working on something important.

And our focus on Thomas goes the wrong way. We see his doubts, but we should his confession: “My Lord and My God!” This is stronger even than most of the other disciples.

Finally, we get the word from John that this is not the whole story. This wraps (with the addition of John 21) the earthly work of Jesus with his disciples, but there is more. More that occurred, more that will occur as God redeems His people. But this is enough. Let the whole world be filled with the rest of the story: people who walk in faith and serve the Truth.

In Focus: For a quick focus, let us go back to Peter and John in the Empty Tomb. We see that John gets there first, then Peter. Notice the difference in the verbs describing their reactions?

John looks in from outside, but does not go in. Peter barges in, looks, and then leaves. John then goes in, looks, believes, and then goes home.

In Practice: From this, let us take our practical ideas:

1. Get as close of a look as necessary. Read, read, and listen to Scripture and get a close look at the Gospel. Read even the critics of Christianity, but read honest critics and tough responses—do not be confused by reading the tough critic and wimpy defenders of the faith. (Or the other way ‘round!)

2. When you see, though, do not hesitate to believe. John believes because he’s putting together all that has been said. Peter’s not quite there yet.

3. Be cautious in how you treat those who have not seen what you have yet. Remember the “yet:” Thomas did not believe “yet.” But he does come in time. Imagine if the disciples had locked him out for asking tough questions in the beginning?

4. Go home when you must, but reassemble with the believers when it is time!

In Nerdiness: A good point gets raised regarding the timing of the crucifixion and how to reckon with three days. It is worth noting that John, like the other Gospel writers, points us to the Resurrection “on the first day of the week.”

However we argue that out, this is a good place to start. It’s also why we have church on Sundays. I think that couples with another truth: we owe God the first and best place in our lives. What better way than starting the week by giving Him the day?

Saturday for us, as a day of rest. Sunday opens the week in worship and praise, doing the work of the Lord to set the tone for the rest of the week. True, there are times that does not work—but does it not work because it has to not work or because we just will not make hard choices?

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 2014: Proverbs 10 by Doug

Proverbs continues to show us how life should look, lived in obedience to YHWH. I am starting to meander toward the opinion that following the Proverbs would work out perfectly in Eden, though it does not always do so now. The reality is, though, that we must take the long view on the veracity and implications of Proverbs.



Such is the case with Proverbs 10:2 and the condemnation of ill-gotten gains. If you do not know someone who has profited from ill-gotten gains, you have not watched the news. We all tend to be aware of that individual who has gotten something that they have no business having.


The reality is that short-term gains can be realized from ill-gotten gains. That’s why they are called “gains” here: there is a gain. It is not, however, a long-term winning situation. Instead, like a Ponzi scheme, ill-gotten gains are doomed to fail in the long run.


We need not limit our understanding of this verse to financial impropriety. I would suggest that Solomon did not think of this only in relation to cash—power, authority, and general wealth would have been in view as well.


Let us consider, for example, if one were to lie or deceive to attain fame and power. This makes the influence an ill-gotten gain, and the long-term is that any good is providential, not intentional. This applies to pastors with inflated resumes and egos, politicians with sacks of wind for brains, and men who cannot see the truth for their libidos.


There can be short-term gains from any of these, but is there profit? No. Because profit benefits the long-term, and it benefits others. Profit is the excess good available from one’s life. Sometimes it is a profit of time, which allows us to serve others. A profit of wealth that allows us to assist others—through meaningful work opportunities; need-meeting giving; provision of durable resources.


There is profit in strong, positive relationships. I would suggest that very little good comes from secret relationships—though there are exceptions to that idea. The burden of proof is on you to show that the exception is appropriate. Ill-gotten relationships? Ones that took lies and scheming to get is going to harm you and others in the long run.


The contrast is the righteousness that delivers from death. First, for certain, is that Jesus’ righteousness delivers His own from eternal death. That is not really what I think Solomon had in view, but is worth noting.


The second fact here is that righteousness often aids in bringing life to others. Consider, in light of this verse, the life of Oskar Schindler. While I make no final claim on his religious beliefs, note how he refused the ill-gotten gain of the Nazi Party while showing a righteousness that led to life for others. In the long run, likely for himself as well—for rather than being rounded up and shot like other Nazis in the Eastern Theatre, his escape was aided by those he had helped.


Just another example of God’s ways working, even in madness.

Sermon Wrap-up from February 9

Due to weather uncertainty, especially for Pastor Desmuke coming from Little Rock, we are rescheduling our worship gathering with Providence Missionary Baptist Church. I hope that rescheduling may help us move toward more than annual gatherings.

Morning Sermon: Free to Worship, Serve, and Praise

Free to Worship, Serve, and Praise: Exodus 12 from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Evening Sermon: Psalm 90  Microsermon

We had such an extended Questions/Answers time on Exodus that I sheared off the sermon to 2 minutes.

Psalm 90 MicroSermon from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Morning Outline:

Free to Worship, Serve, and Praise


1.1. Exodus

We are looking specifically at Exodus 12:33-38; 12:51

1.2. Proposition

Our freedom in Christ is to worship, serve, and praise God Almighty in all our lives

1.3. Intro: Basis of Captivity

Food. It's always about our basic desires and wants.

Survival, choices we think we have to make.

Heritage, where we have come from.

Inside, the attitudes and habits we cultivate within ourselves

Outside, those who do not know us or our Lord Jesus.

1.4. Freedom

Enslaved to sin--trapped, unable to be free

Slavery to sin is something that we cannot escape on our own;

Slavery, often in ancient times, had to do with debt. You were a slave until you paid your debt.

Slavery to sin is ended only at death--we are slaves for life, because we never stop sinning and so never pay off our debt.

Death alone frees us--then we get our wages--slaves that satisfied their debt were paid wages.

Or given gifts.

I assure you, you will never want what you have earned. (Romans!)

1.5. Worship, serve, and Praise

Worship: acknowledging the sacrifice that Jesus made for us; meeting His sacrifice with our own (Romans 12) Worship is the adoration of God, fully with all we have.

We see worship in the Passover lamb

We see worship in the family gathering to eat the Passover lamb--there should be no "alone" in the Kingdom!

We see worship in surrendering, preparing, and obeying

Service: putting your shoulder to the load and moving it. Saddling up the donkeys and camels. Packing, moving

Praise: voicing our commitment and appreciation; our amazement and stand for God

Note that nowhere, no matter how desperate the situation became, were God's people sent out to fight--not yet, at least.

Our first priority is worship, service, and praise. The Lord God will deliver us.

Where does your energy go?

1.6. In all our lives

Adults, children, aged and inexperienced

From beginning to end--the deliverance from slavery in Egypt was for life--no going back!

1.7. Conclusion

1. Salvation: you cannot if you are not free--so come to the Cross for Freedom?

2. Action points: are you fighting when you should be praising? Are you watching the pursuing armies and not the leading cloud of glory?

3. Specific Follow-up point: there are barriers in our lives that we have built not heeding the "mixed multitude" (Exodus 12:38) that go up with us. Tear down those barriers, and let God allocate us as tribes! Let us be who we ought to be!

4. Worship, serve, and praise. Stop holding back!

Friday, February 7, 2014

February 2014: Proverbs 7 by Doug

Proverbs 7:22 speaks of the inevitably of sin and destruction. We may not like to read this and see that, but Solomon points out how it happens. First, there is the attraction of sin. Then, there is a point of wavering. After this is a decision. Once that decision is made, there is no stopping the fall.



We like to think it is different than that. Our stories and fables are replete with last minute deliverance from the peril of sin. That is how we want life to work. Sure, our hero has chosen poorly to follow the seductive spy down the darkened alleyway, but someone will come along and pull him out before her henchmen kill him.



That works in the movies, but it rarely works out like that in life. We have a few shining, beautiful stories of last-minute deliverance from addictions. We have some glorious moments in Gideon testimonies of the person in a hotel room, pistol in one hand, whiskey on the nightstand, and one last look at the Gideon Bible stops their suicide puts them right.



These stories are amazing, and we should never stop being used by God to make them happen. Let this be clear: we should keep placing Gideon Bibles. We should keep trying to intervene in addictions. We should try and break criminal intensification cycles where a misdemeanor leads to a felony and leads to more felonies and broken lives. We must, for the sake of ourselves, for the sake of showing love to our neighbor, for the sake of serving God.



What we must not do is assume that someone will intervene for us. I hate to be blunt to you, gentle reader, but you may find yourself in a hotel room without a Gideon Bible. Or in a bar where the barkeep just gives you your keys back, and off you go to kill and die on the highway.



You and I must take the action to walk in obedience to God, show the wisdom to live skillfully in fear and praise of YHWH, and not start on the path. Because just as the youth of Proverbs 7:22, there comes a point of no returning, where your steps are set.



And destruction follows.




Food Friday: Skillet Steak, Edamame, Green Beans.

My first installment for Food Friday is based on the recipes that Ann and2014-01-17 19.33.26 I learned at Table for Two a few weeks back. So, all the original and better ways to do this come from Executive Chef Robert Hall from the Rockefeller Institute. When you do it with Chef Hall watching for mistakes, it comes out looking like this:

Of course, if you’re reading about food on this blog, you likely cannot hire an executive chef for your daily cooking. You want a home tip or two.

Here is how we worked this out at home.

First, of course, when you cook you have to think through ingredients and tools. Nobody with any real sense buys new pots, pans, or kitchen tools every week for new meals. You purchase multi-taskers as you find a need for them. Fortunately, this particular meal requires a couple of things that should be standard in your kitchen. You need:

  • A cast iron skillet.
  • Another skillet or saute pan. I used a 10-inch stainless steel for this recipe.
  • A set of tongs. We have some tongs that are silicon-covered aluminum tips. They work great for this type of thing.

 

Ingredients? Of course you need ingredients. Here’s the catch for me: I can shop at a local Wal-mart, occasionally a local farmer’s market that doesn’t have much, and at a Kroger but it’s inconvenient to get to. My goal is generally to make one stop and get everything, so we are not looking at the fanciest of supply chains.

To cook what we ate will take:

  • Steak. I found thin cut strip steaks with a yellow price that week, so they were cheaper.
  • Green beans: you can buy fresh and blanch them, or you can buy frozen ones and use them straight up. Fresh is better, but we used frozen, “French” green beans. You’re after the skinny ones, not the fat ones.
  • Edamame: there’s a shelled edamame in the freezer section at Walmart. These are optional, but they are a good texture addition.
  • Some fresh mushrooms, sliced.
  • Butter, garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper. Obviously, fresh garlic and rosemary are nice, but you do what you can. Butter: we’re starting to shift to unsalted butter at Chef Robert’s instruction, but I think we used some of the salted in the freezer for this.

Now, on to process. First thing first: wash your hands. That should go without saying, but I said it anyway.2014-01-24 18.58.04

Next: get the meat out on the counter, let it start rising to room temperature. Putting a little salt on it will not hurt right now.

While those are warming, you may choose to cover them loosely with a paper towel to keep from bumping them. Remember: raw meat should not come in contact with ready-to-eat stuff. These got salted and then set out of the way.

At this point, the next step is to put the cast iron skillet on the burner. Since I’m working on a flat-top electric range, I put it on at medium and let it sit there. It’s on the back burner, getting hot. Say it with me, though: Children, don’t touch the hot pan. It will burn you, and you will cry.

If your pan is well-prepped, you can let it get hot while you work on other tasks. If it smokes too much, turn the heat down. If it bursts into flames, get out.

2014-01-24 18.57.58

(See the set up?)

Now, you want to start melting your butter in the other skillet. This is two tablespoons of butter and a splash of vegetable oil. Keeps the butter from burning, or so I’m told.

I put that on a medium high for it to melt. Then, we turn our attention to the target of all the heat. Remember, your steaks are sitting out of the way, getting ready to be seared up nicely.

You need to gather your vegetables. I chose a mix of mushrooms, edamame, and green beans. 2014-01-24 18.58.09

(That’s them in the bowl.)

Once the butter is melted and there’s a bit of foaming in the skillet, I added some rosemary and some garlic. Mixed that up, and then cautiously dumped that bowl into the butter/herb mixture. This gets stirred around for a couple of minutes.

At the same time this is happening, your cast iron should be hot. In fact, you should check your iron skillet for warmth before you dump your vegetables into the steel skillet. If it’s good and hot, then go ahead and lay your steaks down into the skillet. They should sizzle and stick.

Good.

Leave them alone. Seriously. Let them stick right there for a couple of minutes. Once they have seared on that edge, guess what? They will let go of the pan. You should find the timing to be somewhere between 3 and 5 minutes.

Or about the same amount of time you will need to stir and saute your vegetables. Turn off the heat to the veggies, and then flip your steaks. If they let go easily, they’re cooked on that side.

Once they hit the heat (I found it helpful to lay them where they had NOT been laying, as best possible, for heat), put a tablespoon or two of butter and some garlic, and put it in the skillet between the steaks. (I was cooking 2 at a time.) At this point, if two steaks is your goal, you can actually shut off the heat, especially on an electric range. There’s enough heat there to finish off.

As the steaks sit for about the same time on that side as the prior side, the butter will melt, and the flavor of the garlic with the butter will stick to the steak. When it lets go of the pan, take it out and put it on a plate. Or, pull it up, flip it, and put a lid over the pan to move it to “well-done,” but I’m a medium guy.

2014-01-24 19.08.38

This is how it looked when it was about finished. I don’t have a completed project picture.

If you plate the steak, then put the vegetables beside it, the meat will have time to rest. ALWAYS LET THE MEAT REST!

Unless you like it to loose its juice, that is.

This a great meal. I would say I used a bit too much butter on the vegetables, but otherwise it was excellent. Of course, add salt or pepper to taste. Especially a good pepper to the steaks before they hit the pan. Ours took 4 minutes a side and you could cut them with a simple table knife. The beans-edamame-mushrooms were a great side.

What do you think? Going to try it? Or coming over and doing it with us some night?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

February 2014 Proverbs 6 by Doug

Proverbs 6:22 comes to the spotlight today. What is there here to spotlight?






First, let us consider the antecedents of the pronouns here. After all, you see here a repetition of the word “they,” and if you do not know what “they” are, then you are in danger of missing the point. Chasing antecedents is crucial.





In that pursuit, we have two helpers for this text. The first is sentence structure. Unless there is a compelling reason to look farther, we look for the closest nouns that match the pronoun logically. In this case, we should look back to Proverbs 6:20 where the father’s commandments and the mother’s teachings are commended. Here you have two things, which makes a “they,” and these fit logically with the ideas in 6:22.





There is another aid to the pursuit, though, and it is one you might not notice. If you have some of the more literal Bible translations, you will see a little footnote on the word “they” which marks that the word is more specifically “she.” She? Really? Yes, really. And then, if you have the ability through your brain or your computer to check the Hebrew, you will see this: commandments and teachings? Both are feminine nouns, so the proper pronoun in Hebrew is “she” rather than “they.” These are both also singular, though some English versions render them in plural for clarity.





So, what are “they?” The commandment of the father, the teaching of the mother. These are the two things that the young sons of Solomon need. To hold on tightly to what they have been taught and commanded.





It behooves parents to teach their children. Even if you are partnered with a school system to handle some of the teaching, you are still entrusted by God with that child to teach them, and help them grow. Solomon likely had wise men and tutors for his sons, but I see very little of Proverbs commanding his sons to follow the wise men. Instead, he counts the wise men as teaching what he would teach. This is a necessary unity, and should be mandatory for any partnership in teaching children.





Further, we ought to remember the value of what we have learned. I find it hard to improve on the clear statement here: value in guiding actions; value in protecting when we cannot; value in learning more as we go.





This is wisdom, and worth your time!

Merciful Vow-Breaking: Numbers 30

In Summary: This is one of those slightly awkward chapters in the Bible. To some, it is illustrative of a bias against women. To others, it is illustrative of a legalistic system that no one fully followed, or follows. What can we extrapolate here?

First, let us look at the concepts present. Numbers 30 deals with regulations regarding vows. These are not wedding vows, but more like the vows of “I will worship the Lord,” or “I will sacrifice an extra sheep.” Some of these would have been vows to join the Nazarites for a time, or perhaps even vows like we see from Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:11, to “return a child to God.”

Since society is made up of men and women, this chapter addresses men and women. Men are mentioned first. Why? Israelite society, despite many benefits of serving YHWH, still meshed with the culture around it and was male-dominated. So, the vows of men are addressed first.

They are addressed the shortest, though. The vows that a man makes are binding. He is to honor every word that comes out of his mouth. This is why he should be careful what he vows (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5), though a stupid vow that harms others should be broken and the price paid, rather than the vow fulfilled (Jephthah, Judges 11).

Women’s vows come next. This segment is longer, because there are loopholes in it. Summarizing it looks like this: a woman who lives with a male authority figure, be it father or husband, may make a vow. He, however, may cancel her vow. A woman who heads an independent household is treated like a man and her vows are binding.

The decision point is this: when a woman makes a vow, does her father or husband cancel it? If not, then she is bound by it. End of story.

In Focus: I think the valuable time here is to focus on the relationships between men and women in the time, and then we will look at how this falls in practice here and now.

Consider the reality on the ground in Israel. A daughter who vowed to enter Tabernacle/Temple service may have the best of intentions, but her father may already have arranged a marriage for her. As much as we cry “INJUSTICE!” at this, the concept here is that God does not hold her responsible for the obstruction of her fulfillment.

This is the same for wives. Perhaps a wife has vowed an extra sheep, or perhaps you take Hannah and her vow to return her first child to YHWH. What about her husband? What if Elkanah decides he needs the lad around the house? Given the legal status of women at the time, there is little Hannah could do. Again, the concept is that God does not hold her responsible for the obstruction of her fulfillment.

Do you get this point? When societal customs disenfranchise a person from fulfilling vows beyond basic obedience, they are not expected to follow through with them.

In Practice: Fortunately, we are living in an era where women are much more empowered to fulfill whatever vows they may present to God Almighty. There are still times, though, where I would suggest that harmony as a couple is of greater value than extra vows. Further, I would suggest that this applies in both gender directions. How many are the stories I have heard of spouses embittered against God because of the vows of their spouse! Wives and husbands do this to each other.

Now, we should also be cautious with our words and vows. But I would suggest that we should demonstrate the grace that this passage shows that God gives. Sometimes, people long to make their devotion evident, but cannot due to circumstances beyond their control. If God does not hold them to account for it, how dare we?

Further, to you who feel the desire to vow but family relations or obligations prevent it, the Mosaic Law anticipated your situation. God knows your devotion, but you are not wronging Him by honoring prior commitments—like a marriage vow or true honor to your parents. Do as you can, when you can.

In Nerdiness:  It’s hard to find a nerd point here. Instead, I would note the elevation of legal status for the divorced or widowed. My current favorite fiction series is the Hugh de Singleton series about Medieval Era surgery and crime solving. Every time a man dies, there is discussion of how soon his widow must remarry, for she has no status in the times.

Mosaic Israel was more gracious to women than that.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February 2014: Proverbs 5 by Doug

I keep telling myself that I will make these Proverbs notes short. I even set my word alert to 350 words. It’s not helping me limit myself. Today’s goal? Hit the 350 and stop. There’s stuff to do.






Proverbs 5 as a unit warns of the folly of adultery. You can spin it as the warning against adulterous religion or against chasing the Woman Folly instead of Lady Wisdom. I think you should take it at face value first: keep your marriage vows. And if you have no marriage vows, then do not take marriage benefits. They go together. The other meanings layer underneath that, using the picture of destructive sexual dalliance to show why they are also destructive.





The verse that hit me today is Proverbs 5:12, and the reason is this: it sounds like an old country song. At least it does to me. It is the song of the man who chose to go badly, though he was warned not to.





This is Solomon’s initial work on “Mama Tried,” with its infamous lyric I turned 21 in prison, doing life without parole. No one could steer me right, but Mama tried, Mama tried.





Solomon is warning his sons, and those who listen in, to avoid that life. There are decisions that you only get the opportunity to make one time. Before you make them, you should seek wisdom. You should listen to the teachings of your elders. You should consider, above all else, the Word of God.





These irrevocable moments in life usually occur without direct warning. For Solomon’s warning in Proverbs 5, it is perhaps that moment when sensuality overcomes sense, and his son is caught in adultery. The first time one is caught, life changes. Fatally in many historical and modern settings—how many murders are over jealous lovers?





Solomon warns his sons: you may have a moment that you choose poorly, and find your days singing “Mama Tried.” Or, you can admit your need for learning and turn your life toward the wisdom that God provides for your life.





That decision is yours.

Book: Romans 1-7 for You

Timothy Keller has presented two prior volumes in his “For You” commentary series. I have had the pleasure of reading Judges for You, though I have not read Galatians for You yet. The series consists of hardcover (or Kindle) books that run under 200 pages, and is presented by The Good Book Company.

This one is Romans 1-7 For You. First, Keller is to be commended for not trying to cover Romans in a complete 200 page book. The haste would have been problematic. Even with the breakdown, it is difficult to address every thing in the seven chapters covered.

The format of Romans 1-7 For You is straightforward. There are 12 chapters, plus front and end matter. The front matter includes a basic introduction to Romans, but this is more focused on the impact of the epistle than to examine major issues in Pauline scholarship. This is fine, because that’s not the focus here. Grab a more academic book for those.

Each chapter is divided into 2 segments that are present practical sides of Paul’s writing. These segments are closed with discussion questions. An additional benefit in these segments is the glossary linkage on Bible words or lesser-known vocabulary. I think it’s born out of e-book set up, where a quick click pulls a definition, but it translates well into print using gray-shading.

Overall, Keller’s work in Romans 1-7 For You reflects his emphasis in other areas. The focus here is on the Gospel as knowing a person, Jesus Christ. This, rather than a defined set of propositions, is the initial focus of faith. From there, Keller builds out how Romans shows us the propositions and truths that matter.

I like Romans 1-7 For You. It is clear, concise, and practical. I found myself more enthused for making headway in the theological passages of Romans and seeing these with fresh eyes thanks to having Keller’s work at my fingertips.

Further, Keller drives his readers to read the Scriptural text as well. He heavily references, rather than quotes, the Biblical material. I like this, just simply as a feature, because it forces the reader to take Romans 1-7 For You alongside the text of Romans.

A brief nod should be made to two well-constructed appendices that outline Romans and provide a guide for identifying and destroying idols of the heart in the life of believers. The third appendix is more of a summary of how learning more of the New Perspective on Paul can help, but is not crucial. It’s not a bad appendix, but it feels like it is there to say “Yes, I’ve read the NPP, no, it doesn’t change what I think about Romans, but I don’t want to argue about it.”

In summary, I would commend Romans 1-7 For You to anyone looking to work through Romans. It’s handy for personal devotional use, basic teaching, or as another source alongside your heavy reference works. It does not replace a good, academic commentary, but supplements one nicely.

(Note, I did receive a copy of this book in exchange for the review.)

July 5 Service Recap

Good morning! Here are the service recaps from last week. First we’ll see the morning services, both the 9 AM and the 11 AM, then there will...