Monday, March 31, 2014

Book: Seeking the City

If you are up for some heavy reading, I have the book for you. It’s called Seeking the City, and it’s published by Kregel Academic.

Written by Chad Brand and Tom Pratt, Seeking the City is a look at economics from a Christian perspective. This is a study book, not a “let us read something fun” book.

The first point to make is this praise of the book: THEY USE FOOTNOTES!!! I whine about endnotes enough that I think I should praise the right decision when it’s made.

Under discussion here is how the Biblical concepts of justice and compassion work out in modern society. This is a heavily researched work, with good details.

Overall, Brand & Pratt’s work is well-grounded in Scripture. They approach from a position of Biblical certainty, and are not looking at whether or not the Bible can be trusted about practical matters. The goal is see what is said about these.

It does appear that Brand & Pratt come from a more politically conservative viewpoint, especially in the areas of government spending. They do work though some Biblically components that support the idea, and I find myself in pleasant agreement with them.

Brand and Pratt work through the overall periods of Western History to address how these have an impact on economics. There are more details the closer in history it reaches, but as is often the case, a separate knowledge of history is helpful.

All-in-all, you’ll need some coffee to stay focused, but this is worth reading as you develop a deeper view of economics than “no new taxes” or “tax the wealthy for everyone else.”

Free book received in exchange for the review. From Kregel Academic

Sermon Wrap-up for March 30

Good morning! Here is the wrap-up from yesterday. Audio and video from both services, then the extended outline for the morning.

Morning Audio: Joshua and His War Record (Direct Audio)

Evening Audio: Introducing Judges (direct audio)

March 30 PM: Introducing Judges from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Morning Outline:

March 30: Joshua and His War Record

1.1. Scripture intro

High points in book of Joshua

1.2. Intro

We are going to take the whole life  of Joshua and the events in Israel during his life in view here

1.3. Proposition

Let us serve the Lord with courage and unity, showing our passion for Him

1.4. That's not important right now

Questions that can, and should, be rephrased before being answered.

"Are you for us, or for our enemies?"

"Why did you not go with us?"

1.5. Surely, You Can't Be Serious

1. Circumcise when and where?

2. Conquer Jericho how?

3. Fight for the Gibeonites?

1.6. It's an Entirely Different Kind of Altar

The altar of remembrance

The testimony of history

1.7. Conclusion: All Together

How do we intend to live in covenant with God?

We do not do so alone--note the assembly of Israel at the opening and closing

1.8. Exactly what do you expect us to do?

Work on your connections: 1. What links you to your past? What links you to the heritage of faith? STOP DISHONORING THE PRIOR SERVANTS OF THE LORD.

2. What drives you to the future? MAKE A COMMITMENT TO FOLLOW AS TIMES CHANGE

3. Who are you rejecting from the Lord's Kingdom? NOTE THAT REDEMPTION IS FOR ALL, INCLUDING YOU!

4. What is your goal? A little comfort or a total conquest? GO FOR IT ALL AND DO NOT COMPROMISE!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book: People Pleasing Pastors

People Pleasing Pastors by Charles Stone is a book. Of course, if you read the title, then you know that. I'm sorry for repeating information. It might make you dislike this review, and I want you to like the review. Because if you like the review, you might like the blog, and if you like the blog, then you might like me, and then I'll be valid as a person. Unless, of course, there's not enough of you who like me to offset the ones who don't like me.

Then I'm in trouble.

While the above sounds a little over-the-top, People Pleasing Pastors points us to the problems of trying to lead a church while also keeping everyone happy. You look at the issues, you look at the problems, and then you make no decisions, take no action, because someone will not be pleased.

Stone's work here is excellent. He takes a hard look at why so many in the ministry are driven by approval. Then, quickly diagnoses the results of that obsession. From there, he constructs a framework of positive action to center our approval desires in the right place: the approval of God.

Stone avoids jumping too far into the Frank Burns trap. There's a scene in MASH, one of the times that Frank is left in charge of the 4077th, where Radar tells Frank that folks won't like his new orders. Frank says "I didn't come here to be liked," and Radar replies, "You're off to a good start."

That's often the response to people-pleasing that I see: just decide to throw everyone overboard, and that is a non-starter in ministry. (And in life, to be certain.) There is a way to methodically work through the need for approval and shift our focus.

Stone guides you through that process. Admittedly, I think his engineering background comes through somewhat in places where it seems formulaic, but the guidance is still valuable. Further, having pastored for 30 years shows Stone to be someone who has had to live his own advice.

I would quibble a bit with the usage of The Message for Bible quotations at times in Stone's work. He does identify it as a paraphrase, but I'm still not a fan of citing it when there are translations aplenty to use.

All in all, though, I liked People Pleasing Pastors when I first read it. Now that I have time to read it and apply to me, though, I may be less inclined to it. After all, I don't think my ways have been pleasing to Stone. :)

Always Consequences: Numbers 35

In Summary: It seems like we will never actually get to getting into the Promised Land, doesn’t it? There are several administrative details to deal with, though, and no job is finished until the paperwork is done. This is something many of us are familiar with: waiting.
Waiting while details we think will never matter are worked out. Numbers 35 deals with one detail, the creation of cities of refuge for accidental manslaughter. Then we’ll have a chapter dealing with inheritance for a family with no sons.
It seems frustrating when this happens in our lives, too. Every detail pertaining to us is handled, so why can we not move forward? Yet there is more to life than us, and sometimes that means we wait while other people’s details get worked out. I get frustrated with that, you likely get frustrated with it, but we are not walking alone. Unless, of course, we choose to walk away from everyone else. Yet often the loneliness we complain of is not because others abandoned us, but because we never stopped to wait for them.

In Focus: I do want to take a look into the cities of refuge concept we find in this chapter. First, of course, is the provision of grace in case of accidents. The whole concept of justice courts and cities of refuge cuts across the knee-jerk responses that we as people have. Of course, if you are going to avoid the knee-jerk executions when someone does not understand what happened, you have to submit to the public scrutiny.
Second, though, is the further examination that occurs in these court structures. The circumstances must be considered, the actions examined. If a killer took even one action that made the situation lethal, like picking up something that could be used as a weapon, then all protestations about intent are null and void. Intentions and motivations are judged here based on actions.
Third is this: even if innocent, the killer still had to handle the consequences of relocation. Rather than being free to return to life as before, he had to stay in the city of refuge to which he fled. Life did not go back to normal, because human life is valuable.

In Practice: I find these three principles to echo forward from the cities of refuge:
  1. Extend grace until you know the facts. This does not mean that you do not seek the facts. This also does not mean that you get an exoneration without others looking at the facts. And this includes that the avenger of blood is right there, making his plea for your head.
  2. As your actions are examined, your motivations will be discussed. Your actions reveal some of your intentions and motivations, people. That’s reality. You can claim that no one knows your heart, but if you picked up iron and struck instead of a feather pillow, then your motivation is on display. At the very least, your lack of concern for the outcome is clear, and that reveals your heart.
  3. Realize that you may be innocent, but you are still going to carry some consequences for the damage you do. In this case, you might do well to do as little damage as possible.

In Nerdiness:  This isn’t particularly nerdy, but notice how quickly we shift from “How can you guys want to stay on this side of the river?” to “There’s equal cities of refuge on both sides.” Learn to adapt.

Second, consider how this chapter speaks of blood polluting the land. This should drive us to be peaceful people, willing to work out issues without violence. It is only when justice clearly demands either individual violence (defense, punishment for definite crime) or corporate violence (warfare commanded by God) that bloodshed did not pollute. Even then, as in the case of David, being a person who used violence too often was still harmful.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book: A Draw of Kings

This may be a slightly different review for me. A straightforward review would be silly: this is book 3 of a trilogy. If you read books 1 and 2, you want to read it for closure. If not, you'll need to read books 1 and 2. I have reviewed those and Patrick W. Carr's style previously: A Cast of Stones and The Hero's Lot. Spoiler on the reviews: Loved them both.


And building on that, I loved A Draw of Kings. This is modern Christian fantasy at its finest.

 What happens when tradition blinds us to reality? What happens when rules overwhelm relationships?

And what happens when personal pride gets in the way of the needs of those we love dear?

These are the questions that A Draw of Kings by Patrick W. Carr really wrestles with. Working through this final volume of the Staff and Sword Trilogy is like trying to close the loose ends of a thousand little threads, both in plot and philosophy.

Carr does that well, if imperfectly. I think the intricacies of the prior two threw one too many balls in the air, and it proved a bit tough to bring them all down gracefully. This may be as much a factor of publisher limits as it is Carr's writing--give him another 5000 words and the ending might have been perfect instead of just great. (I happen to think spending those words on an explanation of what happened would have done the trick--I like what happened, it just seemed right on the verge of left field.)

Through A Draw of Kings, we see into a world where religion overruns governance, and the risk of the power becoming a temptation. We see what can happen when those who are righteous look too hard at preserving what was, rather than seeing what should be.

A Draw of Kings holds a compelling plot from start to finish, as we see what becomes of Adora, Errol, and the rest of the characters we've come to love since A Cast of Stones. More than that, though, this volume turns up the religious questions. Here we see Carr raise the moral issues, the trust issues.

This makes for a book that needs to be read twice. Once to see who, if anyone does, saves Illustra. And who gets the girl...

A second time, though, to consider: what if we had only tradition and memory? What if we had nothing certain about our faith and our governance? What would become of us?

It's a question worth contemplation.

(Note: I received a copy of A Draw of Kings for review, but I also bought it on Kindle so I'd have two, just in case Ann and I needed read it at the same time. Plus, I'm all for funding authors who write good stuff and not just mooching on review programs.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Proverbs 25 March 2014 by Doug


Today’s look in Proverbs is brief, and perhaps more personal than many of these posts. Looking at Proverbs 25:13, I cannot help but consider my role as a messenger for the Lord Jesus Christ.





First, am I faithful to the one who sent me? Do I bring refreshment to Him?





Second, do I faithfully relay the message or do I warp it for my own desires?





Third, do I focus more on the recipients of the message than I do on the sender? That is not to say audience awareness is unimportant—communication involves clearing the interference between sender and receiver-but is that my focus or is He my focus?





Fourth, am I satisfied if He finds me faithful or do I need to be found worthwhile by others?





Fifth, do I consider transmission of the message as the ultimate focus of my life or do I take side roads? There is a message to convey with word and deed. Does it consume me or do I stop for the scenery? I’m reminded of the Jules Verne novel Michael Strogoff, Or the Courier of the Czar, which focuses on a message courier who must eschew all diversions in the haste to deliver his master’s message.





May I be more hasty for my Master. He’s more important than czars, tsars, caesars, or stars.

Book: If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis


I call If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis a “semi-biography” because I cannot name a genre it truly belongs in. There’s some biographical information on Lewis as well as summaries of his literature. McGrath does some analysis of the history of Lewis’ time, and of Lewis’ effect on history. This is a book that’s hard to put in the right place on the shelf.



If I had lunch with C.S. Lewis, he’d probably be so horrified at my informal table manners that we would not get to any of the subjects in Alister McGrath’s new If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis. Then again, being deceased, Lewis may not care. As it is, we must settle for the imaginary luncheons envisioned in McGrath’s semi-biography.
I’m not sure quite what I expected here. Part of me expected If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis to be a fictionalized account of actual lunch meetings. That’s not what we have here, and I think I’m glad. That sounds like a good idea, but it would have required McGrath to reword Lewis’ actual words.
Instead, If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis takes quotes from Lewis’ writings and places these as answers to to major themes. These themes are seen throughout Lewis’ works, such as the importance of friendship or the need for education.
I liked this after I adapted to the changed expectation. It’s a friendlier intro to the life of Lewis than a straight-up biography. McGrath also weaves Lewis’ theology and literature together well in If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis. This one’s a win.

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

Fools! Galatians 3

In Summary: I don’t think I can truly summarize Galatians 3. This is a chapter that begs for a sermon series on the content, and it would take a year to hit it all.

Overall, we have Paul rebuking the Galatians for going back to the law. That’s the critical point overall here: legalism, more specifically Judaizing. This was the belief that Gentiles had to become observant Jews to be good Christians, and that everyone needed to keep the Law for God to love them.

It’s a view that negates the grace of God. If the Law were enough, then there was no point in Jesus coming to die in our place. There was no point in any of it: those who wanted salvation could have simply earned it, rather than rely on the promises of God.

There is one other thing worth noting before we go “In Focus:” Galatians 3:28. Keep it in context as it addresses what there is “neither” of. This is not about the destruction of distinctions, it is about the destruction of barriers to access to God.

We now, though, move back to Galatians 3:1 as we go…
In Focus: Paul calls the Galatians “foolish” in this verse. We need to look at that, especially in light of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:22 about calling people a “fool.”

That is the first issue to address. Jesus uses the Greek word “moreh” while Paul uses “anohtos” (forgive the bad transliteration, Google doesn’t like my Greek font.) It’s two separate words, with two separate connotations. “Moreh” has hints of “godlessness” or “rebelliousness” in it, especially here, while “anohtos” means something like “unsophisticated” or “uneducated.”

Leaving the linguistics, suffice it to say that Paul is not violating Jesus’ commandments here. I have heard it said that Paul is essentially calling the Galatians ignorant, or perhaps even backwoods hicks, here. Why?

The Galatians thought they were moving into deeper, more nuanced and educated views. They were moving away from a simple Gospel into the advanced concepts, developing subtly and adapting to the changing winds. After all, who would want to hold to a simplistic faith in complex times?

In Practice: We should want just that, and should do just that. Our faith is a simple one. Jesus is Lord and no one else is. Therefore, He determines the parameters of eternity, not us.

This simple faith walks in obedience and cuts across racial and ethnic lines. It cuts across stereotypes, but it also cuts against the grain of modern society. There are clearly rights and wrongs.

Anything else is foolish, and should be said to be so, just as it was in Paul’s writings. Those who would deceive are leading people to foolishness. Those who fall for it are being foolish!

This is the cry of many small voices in the modern American Church: STOP BEING FOOLISH! We sit on the fringe as the “nuanced” and “subtle” adapt to the times, as we see the truth compromised in so many diverse ways that it’s alarming. And the church keeps funding it all. We’re not talking about the heretics and the cults, the secularists and the pagans. We’re talking the books on the shelf at Christian bookstores, the speakers at conferences, the pastors in pulpits, the presidents in schools.

Oh foolish American Christians, stop being bewitched. Pick up your Bible, read it, and turn to Christ as Lord. Gather with the faithful and grow together, follow together, and worship together. And let the rest cut themselves off.

In Nerdiness:  The second half of this chapter has quite a few things to say about distinction between Jew and Gentile. There’s also a lot about how that distinction does not matter in the eyes of God, because unity in Christ is what matters.

There is the potential here for an impact on how we see the end of time. Some see that this means there is no future difference in those who are ethnically descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and those who are only heirs by faith. Others do not see it as such.

I think we must be very careful to read Paul’s statements in context. He is focused here on salvation and the need for all to be saved by grace through faith. He is highlighting that both divisions need grace. Any readings on eschatology should be held loosely until confirmed through the scope of other passages.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Proverbs 24 March 2014 by Doug

I see something interesting in Proverbs 24:23, although I cannot really confirm it with the experts I have available. This verse opens with the phrase “These also are the sayings of the wise.”



The primary viewpoint is that the following section, Proverbs 24:23f, is from a different source. This is because one of the major views is that Proverbs is not as unified as, say, Ecclesiastes, and has material from multiple sources with no real cohesion.



I don’t buy that theory, however well-regarded it may be. I think Proverbs presents as being compiled at the hand or command of Solomon. The final version is, for the most part, Solomonic in construction. I know Proverbs 25:1 references Hezekiah, but even this reference gives credit to Solomon as the author.



I think what we see in Proverbs 24:23 is not a simple editorial note. It is a marker of importance. Here’s what I mean:



Throughout Proverbs, you have multiple statements about “listen to your father, listen to your mother.” You have other statements about “teachers” and designated “advisers.” Specific guidance is highlighted by pointing out who else supports it.



Likewise here. The sayings that follow about judgments and justice are commended to the sons of Solomon because it’s not only Dad’s advice, it is well-known sayings of the wise. The sayings are valuable and framed with a parental “Don’t just take my word for it, listen to others!”



Why?



Because this information is about working in areas of judgment and justice. There are aspects of Proverbs that reflect on living life in general and aspects about being the king. The former was personal, the latter would only apply to one. All of the royal family, though, could expect to sit in judgment of cases. It was not uncommon, though sometimes it was trouble for the one on the throne.



Keep in mind that Solomon must not only prepare one son for the throne (the ill-fated Rehoboam) but prepare all of his other sons for their future duties. Proverbs is not targeted only at Rehoboam, for if it was, it was surely a failure given his spectacular flame-out as king. If we see Solomon as providing wisdom for all of his sons, though, we see a better statement about the Proverbs in general.



The following sayings, then, are not just what matter to kings. They matter to all the wise. Including us, if we would be wise. What does Solomon start off with here?



To show partiality in judgment is not good.



Want to grasp that? Genesis 1 is the place to turn. What God does? Good. If you are trying to be godly in your behavior, act on the things of God, guide the people of God, then “good” is your standard, because God is your standard. (Mark 10:8)



If it’s not good, then it’s not of God. So don’t do it.

Book: Exploring Christian Theology

It’s time for a scary book review. Ready? THEOLOGY! BOO! SCARY!!

That’s one of two typical responses to the word “theology” in the modern American Church. The other response is “I don’t need any theology, I just want to love Jesus and let Him love me.” Both of these responses are effectively nonsensical. Every person develops a theology. Even an atheist, who simply examines the concept of “God” (Theos) and decides “ain’t one.” You may not articulate theology, you may not use big words, but you have made mental decisions about what “God” means to you.

The question becomes what type of theology you have developed. Exploring Christian Theology, by Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel (primarily, with contributors,) aims to provide you the reader with a clear, practical view of Christian Theology. They base their work on a view of the Bible as inerrant, and this is simply an assumption throughout this text. This is likely because another volume in the Exploring Christian Theology series will be out later addressing revelation and Scripture.
This volume is focused on “The Church, Spiritual Growth, and the End Times.” If you want to get fancy, that’s ecclesiology, sanctification/discipleship, and eschatology. Those big words, though, are often the scare-points in theology for people, so while they may creep through at times, Exploring Christian Theology studiously avoids them too much. Overall, this book is aimed at the Christian who wants to develop a better theology but is afraid of the big, hardcover books.
Holsteen and Svigel tackle two major concepts here in answering “What is a church?” and “What about the end of the world?” These are not really the two things I would have started with, but I’m not a PhD-holder and professor, so they didn’t ask me. It does feel like Exploring Christian Theology jumps to constructing a second-floor on the house without covering how to build a foundation.
However, taken just on its face, Exploring Christian Theology is an excellent guidebook. The authors strive not only to present their ideas, but also to give some examples of how theology intersects with life. I like this, as well as the extended ‘for the bookshelf’ sections detailing further study points.
I see no problems with using this as a jump-starter for discussions and classes. Certainly for deeper academic work, you’ll need a text that deals with all the major arguments instead of a few, but this is not aimed at that audience. It’s not quite the only theology book you’ll ever need, but it is a good start in the process of formulating a clear theology.

(I did receive a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for the review.)

Sermon Wrap-up for March 23

So, I have this fear of writing “Sermon Warp-Up” and two weeks ago, I made “March” into “Mach” instead. Oops.

Morning Sermon Audio is here (Direct play here)

Morning Video:

March 23 AM Over the Sea Deuteronomy 30:11-20 from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Morning Summary:

March 23 AM: Over the Sea!

Deuteronomy 30:11-20

Once you know, you must act:

Serving others

Serving the Lord

Living righteousness

Stop stalling

Stop looking for signs

Evening Sermon Audio is here (Direct play here)

Evening Video:

March 23 PM from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Evening Summary:

March 23 pm

Deuteronomy 22:5-12

Strange laws?  Hunting and liability laws

 

Morning Extended Look:

Chapter 1: March 23: Over the Sea!

1.1. Scripture intro

Deuteronomy 30:11-20

These chapters contain Moses' final words. We should consider these as we move forward into life.

Highway? Use the concept of a major sign telling you where to take an exit and then reminder signs on the path--mileage and motion.

1.2. Intro

Life and death, blessing and cursing--

For the people of Israel, it was about the Land and the Promise. It was about deliverance from Egyptians and the presence of God in their midst

1.3. Once you know, you must act

Go with a parents see all type of story here.

Heaven and Earth--there is no place away from witnesses.

1.4. Serving the Lord

The first line of covenant living is serving God, and only God, and no other gods.

1.5. Serving Others

The second line of covenant life is service to others.

1.6. Live Righteously

The third aspect of covenant life is just this: live righteously in obedience to God.

Look at the idea of the comprehensive law, that is in our hearts and mouths

Probably worth a mention on those who will wear Scripture or Facebook it but will not live it.

1.7. Stop stalling

TODAY!

Would you join me in ending our procrastination?

We know what needs to be done--you know what needs to be done.

So often, we act like we need to understand a little better, we know but we are afraid to act.

Stop living in fear and stalling.

Stop living in obstinate ways.

1.8. Stop Looking for Signs

And stop procrastinating and covering it up with faith-y- fluffy words. You do not need someone to ascend to heaven or come down (again!) to bring the Word.

You have it.

Do it. God has given you a sign, and He has given you reminders!!

1.9. Conclusion

For us, it is about deliverance from sin. It is about protection from eternity and salvation from sin, hell, and our own fallen nature.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book: A Commentary on Judges and Ruth

I have pointed you to the Kregel Exegetical Library at times in the past. Today we will revisit the series and examine the volume A Commentary on Judges and Ruth. Authored by Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., who is a professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, this is 697 pages bound in a sturdy hardcover. It’s not much to look at, with muted colors on the cover and only black and white text throughout, but the power is in the words.
http://store.kregel.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=2966

Some commentaries excel at attention-holding for casual reading. A Commentary on Judges and Ruth is not one of those commentaries. This is a text for the more serious researcher or student, teacher or preacher, rather than for the light and fluffy among us.
A Commentary on Judges and Ruth takes the text of Scripture at face value. While there is some discussion of the textual critical issues, Chisholm clearly sides with the idea that we should take the Bible to be accurate and intentional in all matters. This is certainly a strength for those of us who are wanting to get into the meaning of the text more than having to defend the text’s existence.
Chisholm does his own translation work here, something I alternate between liking and disliking. In an academic/study work like this, I am more accepting of it than in a popular-type work, and his translations are nearly the same (by his admission in a footnote) as his translation work for The NET Bible. As such, they are not independent or unverifiable for the reader.
Looking at Judges and Ruth in the same volume is not the same as looking at them together. This is essentially a commentary on Judges bound with a commentary on Ruth.
Subject matter for A Commentary on Judges and Ruth focuses on a section-by-section look at the verses. This includes wrestling in both the introductory material and in order with the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter and Ruth with Boaz at the threshing floor. In both of these oft-debated passages, Chisholm is more focused on evidence for his view than on strictly refuting other views. The other views are clearly represented, but instead of being “dismissed,” Chisholm presents a clear picture of what he thinks. The reader is assumed smart enough to know one must choose one view or the other.
Chisholm’s treatment of the chronological questions in Judges is well-handled, and I liked his use of tables showing how the years add up. I have seen this tackled with just text, and it’s confusing.
All told, A Commentary on Judges and Ruth justifies its 2-inch slot on the bookshelf. It’s clear, though technical, and the focus on the text is well-held. Chisholm adds some basic preaching suggestions, but keeps his effort solidly on understanding what is in the text, leaving the reader to find his own way to preach and teach it.

(Free book from Kregel Academic in exchange for the review. They also publish the Philips Commentary Series. I’m getting the better end of them on this stuff, that’s for sure.)

Be the Voice

Proverbs 22:22-23 struck me this morning, and since I already had a plan for the Proverbs Blog today, you’re getting these thoughts over here. These two verses are addressed to Solomon’s sons initially, but by extension we see all Scripture as valuable for all people. So, this is valuable for you and me as well.
These two verses warn against oppressing the poor because he is poor, and not to make the afflictions of the afflicted worse. The reasoning is that God Himself will plead their cases against you, and you will not win.
Let us break this down and note a few things:
First, the poor man: note that poverty is not something to be mocked or oppressed. Throughout the Proverbs, we see that laziness is not to be tolerated. We see that greed or foolishness may be punished, but poverty is no crime.
We have to be very cautious that we do not oppress those who are poor simply for their poverty. It is one thing to punish the guilty, but another to punish the helpless. Societally, we need to evaluate this. Do our social structures punish generations simply for being born poor? If so, something needs to change.
Second, the afflicted: here’s where I get grumpy with governments and businesses. Take this situation here (savingsarahsspine.wordpress.com) about how a company refuses to do what it takes money to do. And don’t think it would be any better with the government in charge of everything—look at some of the other stories (like this one about a boy needing medication) about how FDA regulations cause problems.
We crush them in the city gate. We deny life needing care because it’s too much trouble, or too much cost, or too much risk. Not for the afflicted, but for ourselves.
That’s only the physically ill. Consider those with invisible health problems who are crushed by a society that cannot cope with them. A veteran comes home with PTSD, loses his job because he can’t work it anymore, and our response is to medicate him and hope it gets better. Should we not do something different?
I’m not saying we should do more. The call to “do more” is usually a call to just throw some money at an issue, then throw more money at an issue. It’s never really a solve thing: you can “do more” for kids with learning disabilities simply by letting teachers and parents be the ones to determine what “success” looks like at school instead of a bureaucrat who doesn’t know the kid. Free the teachers to teach—and that for all kids, rather than the ones designated as “problems” for the system. End “test well or die!” at your local school system and see what happens. You’ll have “less” because the federal government will take away the deficit money they are sending you, but you’ll find “more” is the result of effort.
Third, YHWH will plead their case: here is where I will lose some of you.
The Lord God has already spoken, and we have that. In print, available in multiple translations and many languages. It’s called the Bible. Anything beyond that is man’s efforts to speak clearly about what God has already said.
Which means that when the poor and afflicted need their case spoken for, it falls to the people of God to do it. Not to the government or the charity, not to the media or to the social media. To the church and the people who make up the church.
This is not a call to abandon the Gospel that we proclaim, that Christ Jesus died for sinners and rose again.
This is a call that we should live as God’s people while calling out others to salvation in Christ. It is not that we stand for the poor in hopes they’ll be saved. It is not that we stand for the poor because it’s nice or looks good.
It is that we are the voice of the Lord. It's time we started speaking.

Proverbs 22 for March 2014 by Doug

DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!





TURN BACK BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!







I SMELL TROUBLE!







I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS…







Following these lines, we see our intrepid heroes face the danger and find some way to succeed. Usually they find someone else in danger along the way, rescue them, and everyone rejoices. Sometimes, though, the only people that end up in danger are their own compatriots and the heroism is saving themselves from trouble of their own making. (Can you say “Don’t wander off, Rose?”)



Proverbs 22:3 has something to say about our behavior in light of danger signs, though, as we are warned that the prudent man will hide himself. It is the naive who go straight in and deal with negative consequences.



A few thoughts here:



First: The “naive” are not the same as the “fools” or even the “simple” who are viewed negatively in the Proverbs. This is better seen as the contrast between the experienced (or the imaginative) and the untried and inexperienced. The naivete can be overcome, and should be. The question for many of us is whether or not we will lose that naivete through the experience of others or insist on learning the hard way.



Second: The prudent are aware of the problems, of the evil impending. They make provision for their own preservation in those cases. This is a commendable action, and there is not a hint here of selfishness. There is no indication that the prudent do not aid others. In the wider context, one expects the prudent, like the wise, to issue warnings of the impending trouble.



Third: Consider this in concert with the context. Proverbs was directed toward the next generation of rulers. How does this apply to a would-be king? Perhaps he should consider more carefully the results of his actions. Perhaps he should look at the evils of this world and prepare protection not only for himself but for his people. Only the naive expect everyone to be nice out there.



Fourth: This cuts against those who mock preparation and concern as the antithesis of faith. The prudent are not without faith, they are simply trusting that God-given good sense is to be used.



Fifth: This also does not deny God’s hand in preserving us in unforeseeable outcomes or from overwhelming wickedness. This Proverb simply says that if we know better, we should act on it.







It’s not about running from necessary heroics, but it is about avoiding the danger if possible in the first place.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Book: Exploring Grace Together

I have signed on to another book review program, because I’m a little bit nuts. This one is Beyond the Page from Crossway Books. They post a list of available e-books, and I pick one. Then I read it, review it, and keep the e-book. There is no expectation that it will be a positive review, just that I won’t slander the authors. I will take this opportunity to mention that I review books for multiple companies through their freely disclosed blog reviewer programs—there is no special relationship with any of them, nor do I endorse everything from any of those companies.

Today, I want to look at a family devotional book called Exploring Grace Together. It’s by Jessica Thompson and published by Crossway Books. This is book of 40 devotionals aimed at a family audience.
http://www.crossway.org/books/exploring-grace-together-tpb/

The first thing I would note on Exploring Grace Together is that we are not looking at a Bible Story book. These are devotionals hinging on overall Scripture concepts rather than extracting meaning from a particular narrative.
Second, I would note that while every devotional in Exploring Grace Together is headed by a Scripture verse, these are not proof-text style verses. They are verses that illustrate the concept in the chapter, and work well as memory verses.
Third, Exploring Grace Together is an easy read. There is a tendency toward simplicity. This develops the usability of the devotionals for families with younger children. Once past middle school, though, this will be a bit too light, but children through the middle ranges can be challenged to think more deeply than early elementary siblings and grow through the process.
That leads to one of the better ideas for use of Exploring Grace Together. This is a great start point to let your older children lead your younger ones, if there’s a wide age spread there. Let your pre-teen read aloud and ask the questions, watch the conversation develop. That is how we will be digging into this as a family.
Overall, there are the usual drawbacks of a family-oriented devotional here. It could be too short at times, too long for others. If you are a homeschool family, devotionals about “kids at school” can be harder to find application for.
That does not diminish the engaging style in Exploring Grace Together. The discussion questions can pull thoughts out from many, and each chapter fits well into a dinnertime time slot. Doctrinally, this one is right down the middle, and I didn’t see anything to be concerned about wherever you fall in evangelical Christianity. Obviously, if you’re not a Christian, this book will make precious little sense unless you stick in the first two chapters and come to the faith.
I see no difficulties recommending Exploring Grace Together.

(I received a copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for the review.)

Drawing Lines: Numbers 34

In Summary:  We are in Numbers 34, and we are looking at the division of the land among the people of Israel. They are reaching the end of the Wilderness Wanderings, and soon will move into the land.
We will revisit all of this in Deuteronomy, because that book reruns the Exodus story. And yes, I will strive to blog through that without dead-repeating everything I’ve done. But that’s a few weeks out.
Here we have some place names that are clear in history, but others that are not so well known. The same is true of the people mentioned: Caleb comes up again, but Bukki son of Jogli is a one-hit wonder of Scripture.

In Focus: Take a look at the map in your Bible (or below, from Logos Bible Software). The borders limit the spread of Israel. The only one that was truly forced by a natural feature was the Western Border at the Mediterranean Sea. The others are based on the extent of the land God had promised.
These borders mark the land, and the land is what God has promised the people. The blessings and cursings on Mount Ebal in Deuteronomy reflect on being permitted to stay in this land.

In Practice: Practically speaking, borders are valuable. There are the physical/literal borders that separate nations. These are supposed to help keep people safe from intrusion, but that line is rapidly being erased. Just ask Texans and Ukrainians.
There is also a symbolic idea here. There are borders that delimit the area for God’s people in Numbers. On one side of the line, they are living in God’s blessing. The other side of the line is either the point of rejecting God’s promises or suffering God’s punishment.
We need to be aware of the borders in our life. We have a great freedom in following Christ, yet there are still borders that are defined by God’s Word that we must remain in.
This is true whether we are looking at a church’s behavior, a minister’s behavior, or a person’s behavior. I believe there are also implications for the behaviors of nations and cultures, even those which do not align themselves with God’s Word in the first place.
Churches, for example, have directions in Scripture. While a specific music style is not demanded, speaking to one another in song is commanded. So too with leadership qualifications.
Christians have borders on life: is what we are doing loving God with all our heart? Is it loving our neighbors?
Ministers? If we serve the God who is the Truth, we must be people of the truth. In all things, including how we represent ourselves.
Nations? Cultures? Those who celebrate the opposite of obedience will see the opposite of blessing.

In Nerdiness:  Well, there’s a map in a second. Then there’s this idea:

Does the granting of the land on the eastern side of the Jordan to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (the other half of Manasseh crossed the river) expand the future promise to Israel? Or is it a temporary expansion of God’s promise of land and a future Israel should not expect that land?

I don’t really have an answer there, but I think it’s worth considering that all the land promised to Abraham was Canaan on the west side of the Jordan.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book: Ingredients for Success by Joe Slawek

Apologies for the late review on this one—my choices for an organizational system January-February were poor. I think that’s on track now, and I am working hard to catch up.

When I first picked up Ingredients for Success: 10 Best Practices for Business and Life by Joseph James Slawek, I thought “Here we go again: some business guy has made a fortune, wants to sanctify it, and is going to warp Scripture for justification of his methods. Those books are too frequent, and too annoying.

Fortunately, Slawek’s Ingredients is not too bad in this regard. It is true that he gathers the basic practical concepts from the parables of Matthew 25 without moving on to the Christological meaning in them. However, his work here is about business and not theology.

In that vein, Slawek makes the clear admission that he went to Scripture looking for business guidance after someone challenged him about that idea. He did not make a list and go proof-text hunting, and for that he is to be commended.

Ingredients for Success is much easier to read than I expected. Slawek weaves his personal story with the principles he calls “ingredients” to illustrate. His use of “ingredients?” He’s the Founder/CEO of a flavor company, so it’s natural.

I found particularly helpful his concept of aiming for excellence over perfection. This is a great point, though it is not the best supported from his Scripture points. Overall the idea is that we will not hit perfect but we cannot rest on mediocre. In a time where many people get locked up in decision-fear and do not do anything for fear of not doing it perfectly.

All in all, it’s not the best book on the center meaning of the parables of Matthew 25, but Ingredients for Success takes a great look at how Biblical principles can help Christians honor Christ with their work and home lives.

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

Wednesday Wanderings: March 19

It's Wednesday, which means a hodge-podge of things going on.

First, tonight we are at the point in the Biblical story with the kids where we cover David and Bathsheba. Anybody care to deal with adultery and polygamy with a room full of kids for me? Not an easy subject. Some grasp what's happening, others do not--and some parents aren't really up for their kids learning too much at their age.

The focus is certainly on sin and repentance, forgiveness and grace, even for willful disobedience. It's just going to be a tightrope to walk.

And I wonder about the whole situation--why does David fall into this? How willing or unwilling is Bathsheba in her compliance? Is she a victim or a co-conspirator? Does David really think he'll get away with it?

Yet I look at modern politics and think: he may have simply thought no one cared enough to say anything. We certainly don't care in America about the people in power and whether or not they honor and respect folks--as long as they support what we want them to vote for, they can be wicked to the core. If we as a population keep turning a blind eye, we will continue to have Davids in power, and Uriahs filling morgues around the world.

After we wrestle with some of that with kids and youth--certainly not all of it, but some of it, we'll eat a good dinner, have good fellowship, and then talk a bit about Deuteronomy. Fun stuff.

Meanwhile, the Proverbs Blog Project keeps going. Here are a few links:

Ann's posts: Today, March 11

A few of mine: Today, Yesterday, a few from the past couple of weeks.

I'd also recommend the posts at the HEDUA Blog:

By Ann: http://hedua.com/blog/principles-teaching-bible/

By Me: http://hedua.com/blog/hedge-discernment/

Also by me:  http://hedua.com/blog/im-not-a-homeschooler-am-i/


Proverbs 19 March 2014 by Doug

With apologies to my Biblical Interpretation professors over the years, today we’re going to stretch on the meaning for Proverbs 19:13. How so? Take a look at the verse and how it addresses relationships: sons and fathers, wives and husbands.


“A foolish son is destruction to his father, and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.” Proverbs 19:13 (NASU)


First, consider the obvious meaning. Do not let your children grow up foolish as far as it is in your power. Do not marry someone who is always spoiling for a good bicker. Take this as a two-way street on gender, folks, because I think this is a spot where Solomon is addressing his sons about their wives and future sons (grandsons of Solomon) who will rise to power. That is the cultural context, but the principle extends broadly.


Second, though, we are going to stretch this. Sons and fathers are a picture here of descendants and precedents. Consider the governance of America or many other nations in history: previous generations secured a liberty and prosperity that allowed luxury for many current citizens. The generations that followed embraced softened versions of the same threats our forefathers fought—and now, we see destruction. Because we have taken our fathers and mothers, what they have taught, and been foolish with it.


This applies not only in governance and national issues, but within our churches. Too many of us know nothing of the history of the church. Too many do not know what true “freedom of religion” is about, nor what it is to be a “priesthood of all believers” in Baptist life. So, we foolishly connive to our own destruction by embracing the folly our forefathers fought.


That turns to our final thought: the New Testament speaks of the Church of the Living God as the Bride of Christ. Yet we are often a contentious wife, are we not? We are a constant dripping of complaining and arguing. Have you ever seen a stone that has been constantly dripped on? Over the years, it wears away. We wear away at the patience of God through our contentions. Fortunately, His grace knows no limits, but that is no excuse for us.


Note, though, that not all fighting is contentions. Solomon speaks not of a wife who takes up and repels an intruder or marauder. He speaks not of one who defends her children from a threat or provides clarity for the household and their behavior. There is a difference in defense and contentiousness. Carpet colors? Contentiousness. False teachers, abusers, and power-hungry religious leaders? Defense. Learn the difference—and praise the defender.


Just do not add to the contention when you think a pale red carpet would be better.

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...