Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sermon Recap from September 28

In all honesty, this past Sunday I did not communicate as clearly as I would have liked. I have identified at least one cause, in terms of focus, but part of why a church has a regular preaching ministry is because some sermons are not awesome. Some you get through and say, well, I think I was faithful to the message.

Then you do better the next week.

Sunday Morning: Malachi

Sept 28 AM Malachi from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Sunday Evening: Luke Begins

Sept 28 PM from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Quick Update for This Week

As much as it pains me…I will get the sermons uploaded sometime soon, once Vimeo gets them online.

Otherwise, it’s finals week. If you saw the update a few days ago, you know this will be the last finals week for a while, but because of wrapping up the term, I’m laying off the blogging this week.

Thanks for your patience, and I’ll be back next week!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book: Can I Really Trust the Bible?

Today’s book—>

For those of you in Almyra, no, that is not the same Barry Cooper that we all know and love. I know how that Barry Cooper answers the titular question. He says “yes” and the moves on with the day.

I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for the review.

Christianity as a religious faith rises and falls on whether or not Jesus is real, and whether or not He is really risen from the dead. Given that theological assertion, though, our knowledge of Jesus rises and falls on whether or not we can trust the Bible to teach us about Jesus. If we cannot trust the Bible, then we really don’t know much about Jesus at all.

Into this discussion come some really weighty books. Seriously, by the pound weighty books. And then comes Barry Cooper’s Can I Really Trust the Bible? which is a relative lightweight in the discussion. Why? Because it’s short.

Not as short as a fundamentalist work would be: “Yes.” But short, nonetheless. He produces a slim 80 pages, with easily readable font, to address this question.

His argument begins from a point of faith declaration, showing that His start is with the text of Scripture being, well, Scripture. Then he moves on to explore evidences for the trustworthiness of the Bible. He also references Winnie the Pooh, which is almost always a positive for me.

Cooper provides basic responses to the most common questions about the Bible, including what is the internal evidence for Biblical trustworthiness? What are external evidences?

It is true that some of these answers are more simplified than some works are, but it’s still a very good first-level book. I’d recommend it for church study groups and individual growth. Makes a great stocking stuffer, too, for the budding Bible nerd in your life.

Free book provided through Cross-Focused Reviews for the GoodBook Company. I liked it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

No Math! Deuteronomy 12

In Summary:
Briefly, Deuteronomy 12 presents the second helping of the laws of God related to public worship. The old pagan structures are to be destroyed, new worship is to be done in accordance with God’s commands.

Notice, especially, the statements about how: 1. You shall not act like this toward YHWH, your God; 2. God’s choice of worship—the place which YHWH will choose; 3. Tithes in 17-19, that were to be used for fellowship, rejoicing, and feeding the Levites.

In Focus:
I have one, clear focal point in this passage. Take a look at Deuteronomy 12:32. (For you Greek nerds, it’s 13:1 in the LXX, also in the BHS for you חֶברֶו types.)

Take a good look. Especially that last phrase: you shall not add to it or take away from it.

God is abundantly clear that His commands are to be followed, and even more clear that they are not to be added to by people.
In Practice:
What matters in practice of this?

In summary, legalism. In all sorts of forms, legalism keeps cropping up. It is the Hydra of Christian practice, that when you cut off one head, two more take its place. Cut it off, here and now, and singe it with the fire of the Spirit.

How does Legalism keep springing back? Take a current, massively destructive debate in Christianity about education. Here’s legalism at work in three easy statements:

A. Those who do not homeschool their children are handing them over to Satan and dooming them to destruction.

B. Those who do not send their children to government/public schools are abandoning their communities and dooming all the lost of their community to destruction.

C. Those who do not send their children to private schools are dooming their children to lousy education, lousy social skills, and destruction of their spiritual well-being.

All of those statements are legalistic. They do not take into account the freedom in the Spirit to make wise, discerning choices about parenting and education.

Have another issue we are constantly lobbing rocks about, that of family responsibilities. Here are three statements on it:

A. Women who work outside the home abandon their God-given responsibilities to the home, and it should never happen.

B. Women who never work outside the home are trapped, and often deluded into thinking they are not trapped, by men whose only purpose is control.

C. Men whose wives work outside the home are less than real men.

Again, we are not allowing people the freedom to make their own decisions based on their understanding of the Word of God.

And God’s Word is not as crystal-clear on these matters as advocates on any side would like you to think it is.

This violates the principle stated here, to not add to the Lord’s commands. Yet sometimes we are so obsessed with what we think His commands are that we keep piling on to them, and then we extend them to everyone else. For example, Ann and I are convinced that in our situation, the wise choice is to homeschool. I will not detail all the reasons here, but we feel that we are being obedient to God’s commands in doing so. However, we know others who utilize both public and private options for education. And they are being just as obedient as we are.

Likewise, Ann works for an outside company but she works from home. I am not unmanned by this nor is she abandoning anything by working. She would not be abandoning us if she went to a local Internet cafe to work. There just are no local cafes.

Other families make other choices, and we are in no position to condemn their choices. Especially without knowing them! Now, if you came to me as your pastor and detailed a laundry list of family, work, and school issues, I would heartily recommend you make different choices. I have no fear of that. But I will not issue a blanket statement about any of these because I see that Scripture does not permit making any of those options the absolute Word of God. Why?

God did not make it the Word of God. I am not in a position to correct His choices.

The extension on this: if you are hearing from a preacher, teacher, or so-called ministry that insists that the Word of God must extend to include their view, their vision, to the exclusion of all others—that person is wrong. Based on Scripture. (Now, this caveat should not be necessary, but obviously some things are out-of-bounds and it’s not legalistic to say so—there are practices of pagans to be eschewed, just as the Israelites were told.)

Get out from teaching like that. Find help, find support, and get away.

Because the Law of God is very clear that there is no more math: no addition, no subtraction. He has spoken, and we act on it.


In Nerdiness: I’ve got nothing nerdy to add. It is plain here, and there is no wiggle room. Want to get nerdy? Wrestle with why the original languages have 12:32 as 13:1…or why English has 13:1 as 12:32, whichever you’d like.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Wanderings: Nehemiah September 24 2014

I have, in the past, preached through Nehemiah. Those posts are archived back in January-February of 2012, but they were when I used a different podcast host and the audios of those messages are gone. All that's left are rough outlines. If I can ever find the original audios, I'll put them on the new host where they can live forever.

Until then, it's all gone. Rather than link back to that, I'll give a rundown of the highlights of Nehemiah, along with my questions going through this again. An observation worth noting: reading back through these passages again, a little quicker this time, I see some things I saw before, and other ideas do not show up as clearly. Meanwhile, a new thought or two also comes along.

First, I would note that Nehemiah was doing fine in his life. He's cupbearer to the king, which is a pretty tough gig to get. We have overplayed that in our cultural context to be the guy who is supposed to taste the king's food and die if it's poisoned, but it's really different from that. Think head butler/domestic staff-boss. Nehemiah has responsibilities for the king's household--including security. He is trusted and likely well-compensated for it. 

Second, I would note that nowhere in the opening chapters does Nehemiah have a prophetic call experience. There are no moments of grand visions or flying angels. Instead, he hears of a need. His heart is moved by the need. His intelligence reasons that he is able to aide that need. He finds there is nothing ungodly or against Scripture in meeting that need.

And then he acts.

Practically speaking, how many times do we wait for Isaiah 6 when God is working in our lives through Nehemiah 1?

Yes, Nehemiah prays and fasts before he acts. But he does not behave as if he is working from some grand prophetic scheme. It's a practical plan, a practical action. We need a few more Nehemiahs in our day, who will have a plan, make sure it is God-honoring, and act on it.

Third, I would note Nehemiah's willingness to take a risk. He goes before the king, admitting his problem and asking for help with it. The king is pleased to do so, though I might add that "if it please the king" is a permission-seeking formula, so "it pleased the king" may not reflect the king's "pleasure" so much as his "permission." Still, the king could have just as easily sacked Nehemiah.

And in a wandering moment...what is the chronological relationship between Nehemiah and Esther? If Esther is Queen alongside Xerxes I, then Artaxerxes is one of the king's sons from a different wife. If we have Ahasuerus of Esther misplaced, and he is one of the Artaxerxes (there's several), then could the "queen sitting beside him" in Nehemiah 2:5 have been Esther? That needs a serious nerd-look.

Fourth, I would note that Nehemiah takes time to address serious questions about his work, and deals with the legitimate objections. He has no patience for those who simply oppose him, and I think it is because he has had enough interactions with them. Tobiah and Sanballat were likely known to Nehemiah, nd we cannot argue from the shortness of exchanges in the text that this was the only interaction this group had. After all, Nehemiah is appointed as the de facto governor of Jerusalem. He's going to be aware of significant political people in the region, and certainly the leaders of other provinces, which it appears these opponents are. There are no grounds to automatically dismiss critics based on Nehemiah--not until they've run their course too far.

Fifth, I would note Nehemiah's acknowledgment of his need for God while still doing all he can. That should be enough said.

I like Nehemiah. He's practical and does what is in front of him--and often gets shorted in our list of Bible heroes. But the city he rebuilds? Jesus walks in it. 

That's pretty glorious.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book: Being Church, Doing Life

Image<----Look! It’s a book! Well, it’s a book cover picture. But you get the point.

In Being Church, Doing Life, Michael Moynagh pursues the answer to this question: what does it look like when we separate church as “worshiping community” from church as “cultural activity?”

Because let’s face this up front: in many places, especially Moynagh’s United Kingdom and my United States (the Southern part!), church is endemic to culture. It’s just there. We have churches, we have churches everywhere. And there are cultural constructs connected to the idea.

Yet decades of cultural evolution have resulted in a cultural church that is not quite the same as what a worshiping community would look like. So, how do we sort out the differences?

By analyzing examples, primarily drawn from the UK but some from the US, Moynagh presents many non-traditional looks at worshiping community structured around the normal beats of life. These ideas are naturally inspiring, and should challenge us to think outside of the box.

I like his concept of developing witnessing community alongside Christian community. This is a great slice into how I have been asking the question for several years: is the one hour we meet on Sunday morning intended to strengthen the believer or reach the nonbeliever? It is difficult to do both at the same time with any faithfulness or completion.

Moynagh here emphasizes the development of the “reach out” aspect of community. I would suggest that this hinges on an assumption that people will move from reach-out community into Christian community where deeper questions and different problems are addressed; after all, some issues do not surface until one is actually trying to follow Jesus.

In this, I think there is a clear risk that someone will take Moynagh’s book as if it is the only path for all churches to follow. That is not on the author—it’s on the reader to balance Moynagh’s emphasis with a completed Biblical ecclesiology. As an aside, Moynagh stresses that Jesus didn’t write a book but formed a community. Yet he writes a book—and has written several. That makes this statement a line that has emotional punch but has no value. If books are bad, then why be an author?

Building on that statement as an illustration, what I find as the major concern here is Moynagh’s general de-emphasis on Scripture. While he routinely points to verses, he still pushes a bit toward the shallower side, as if a drop is enough to fill the bucket of a soul. I’d suggest that it’s not, but I will also state this: I don’t think Moynagh’s out to produce a complete text on all the aspects of church here. I think he has highlighted one facet of a diamond.

As an illustration of that facet, this is a good work, and one I would recommend. Especially among those of us who are in stabilized situations where the church is swimming along without turbulence, and needs to reach out differently. This will shake up the viewpoint.

But realize that the ideas here truly depend on having a deeper community to draw people into, whether it looks like a traditional church or not.

I think it’s worth your time as a pastor or church leader.

FOR THIS WEEK (9-22-26) ONLY! CLICK THIS LINK FOR A DISCOUNTED EBOOK PRICE FOR BEING CHURCH, DOING LIFE:

Image

Free book from Kregel Publishers for the review.

In the Synagogue: Luke 4

In Summary:
The historian-doctor continues his exploration of the life of Jesus by following the events after the baptism. Jesus goes up from the Jordan and into the wilderness. While there, He fasts and is led around in the Spirit for forty days. As those days draw to a close, the devil comes to tempt Him. This is a well-known story which covers three temptations of Jesus.

We see three primary temptations put before Him during this time. They cover major aspects of ministry: be flashy and use your power to satisfy your desires; direct worship in the wrong direction and rule wrongly over others; put God to the test and see if He really delivers. Each of these had a major significance in the life of Jesus and they also could affect the typical minister and Christian who follows after Him.

Jesus then proceeds to Nazareth, His hometown, and enters the synagogue to teach.
Here another temptation presents itself: please His religious audience by pulling punches. As He stands in front of the typical group in Nazareth, the people who have known Him the whole time, He takes up the scroll for the day’s reading.

The scroll holds the writings of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus finds written there the words of Isaiah 61:1-2 about the workings of the Gospel. The prophet speaks of one who has the Spirit of the Lord, coming to proclaim freedom from captivity, sight for the blind, and the favorable year of the Lord. 

This is truly good news.

And Jesus says that it is fulfilled in Him!

The crowd is less than pleased with this statement, and yet Jesus continues to explain why and how God has worked in the past.


In Focus:
Let us now take this and look at how Jesus dealt with temptation. First, though, see this: each of these incidents is temptation, from the devil in the wilderness to the friends in the synagogue. Each of these moments was a threat to following through with why He came, because at its core all temptation is the same.

All temptation is an effort to move our decision-making from What has God commanded? to What seems like a good idea at the time? No matter what skin the temptation puts on, that is the beating heart of it. This increases the challenge to recognize temptation, but simplifies the response. The response is always the same:

A heavy application of God’s Word. This is how Jesus responded to each of the devil's stunts: Scripture. Nazareth’s questions? Scripture. Their complaints? More Scripture (specifically, narrative portions of Scripture, contrary to some who would claim those stories are not valuable for instruction.)


In Practice:
Practically speaking, we need to back up one step in dealing with temptation. As people, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit to deal with temptation, and we only have that if we have a relationship with God through Jesus—but Jesus came on the scene with that intact. So we do not see Him needing to start that relationship by confessing sin and turning in repentance. We do.

From there, we follow the same path. Recognize temptation for what it is: a decision between What has God commanded? and What seems like a good idea at the time? If there is any decision of this nature, then you are facing temptation.

Drop back to what you know of the Word of God. What has God commanded? What has God done? How can you walk with Him?

For this, we have to know the Word. We must know Jesus, and we must read and grow in our knowledge of the Holy One. It may be that all you remember is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength…but that alone is often enough! How often does temptation push us to use who we are for something less than God?

Get in the Word, even if you can only grab hold of one thing, and hold on tight.

In Nerdiness:
Well, there’s lots of nerd ideas in a good chapter like this. First off, there is the question of the synagogue reading. The tradition was that the men would take turns reading, and they simply picked up where the last one left off on their day. So, does Jesus just happen to have His turn on this day, and happen to be at Isaiah 61? Or does He choose the passage rather than read what’s given Him, and He’s asked to read out of turn because He’s back in town?

Like many nerd questions, there’s no good answer to that one—nor any essential one.
Another nerd-observation is where Jesus stops in reading. He leaves off the phrase “And the day of vengeance of our God;” which is the next line in Isaiah 61:2. I would suggest to you that there’s a reason for that.


The day of the vengeance of our God was still coming, but it came at the Cross. It came on Jesus. He already knew about that day—others needed to know about the Good News before it happened.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sermon Recap for September 21

Alright, we’re back to semi-normal around here, so that means two sermons per Sunday. That should hold true until the last Sunday in October.

Morning Sermon: Obedience in the Midst of Chaos: A Lesson from Esther 

Outline

Sept 21 AM Esther from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

 

Evening Sermon: The Mighty Acts of God Psalm 105

Outline

Psalm 105 from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Morning Outline: Esther

We serve God in the chaos of life, even when we cannot see how He is working.

I. (3 minutes) Front Porch: We serve God in the chaos of life, even when we cannot see how He is working.

A. Today, we are looking at Esther--yes, the whole book. Rather than highlighting one particular passage, I want us to consider the entire story of Esther, Haman, and Purim

B. Delivery of sentence: How do we serve God in the chaos of life? How do we handle it when we cannot see how He is working?

     C. Transition

II. (3 minutes) Entryway:

     A. Do we really need to talk about chaos in life?

     B. Ok, let's talk: jobs--running to and fro, seeking to survive.

     C. This is life for far too many of us--

          1. How many nights are you home?

          2. For some of you, average that over the year--I know you're not home at harvest time

III. (2-3 minutes) Hallway:

A. Unknown authorship, post-exilic-

     B. Some of the Jews have returned

     C. Esther addresses the situation of those who remain in the Persian capital

IV. (3-5 minutes, only if necessary) Sitting Room:

     A. Historicity: there are some questions, however there are evidences that support the possibility

     B. Do not underestimate the whims of authoritarian kings--Vashti may have returned

     C. Ahasuerus=Xerxes I (most sources) 485-465 (time of construction of Parthenon

     D. Banquet was likely war planning/celebration: related to Thermopylae (SPARTA!!!)

V. (5-7 minutes) Kitchen:the book of Esther highlights these aspects of theology:

     A. God is sovereign even when anonymous

     B. God is capable of keeping His promises

     C. God's people always have enemies

VI. (7-9 Minutes) Dining Room (personal growth)/Living Room (immediate life application)

     A. Dining Room (personal growth): Our inability to see God at work does not mean He is not

     B. Living Room (immediate life application): What is one step of obedience to God in your work right now?

10:10 ->no plundering: remember that the goal is not to deprive others of what they have, nor is it truly revenge but it is to spread the Word of God

VII. (3-5 Minutes) The Door: wide world impact

     A. Do not lay down your rights--

     B. Also, do not sit idly by while others are deprived of theirs!

     C. Proclaim, boldly, who you are.

 

Evening Outline: Psalm 105

I. (3 minutes) Front Porch: God provides, disciplines, and empowers that we might obey Him and praise Him!

A. Psalm 105

II. (3 minutes) Entryway: Does it seem like the world does not reflect the work of God

III. (2-3 minutes) Hallway: A post-exilic Psalm

     A. Authorship is uncertain--

     B. Reflects Israel after the Exile


V. (5-7 minutes) Kitchen: God's glory is clear, even through judgment and salvation

VI. (7-9 Minutes) Dining Room (personal growth)/Living Room (immediate life application)

     A. Dining Room (personal growth): The value of knowing what God hath done

     B. Living Room (immediate life application): Implement efforts to learn more and teach more

VII. (3-5 Minutes) The Door: wide world impact: Our worship includes recounting and remembering what God has done. Do not be silent about all of His works

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Where we are: An Update

Back in May, I officially graduated from seminary with my Master of Divinity degree. At that point, I was torn between pursuing my Ph.D., or another advanced degree, and taking some time off from school. I realized just how much I wanted the other degree, so I decided to plunge ahead and start taking language courses in support of the Ph.D. application.

Turns out, I don’t really want that degree bad enough. While I have somewhat enjoyed the idea of learning German and French, I just don’t have the energy to plunge ahead with distance learning again right now.

Distance learning, you see, has its ups and downs. It’s convenient for those of us who live out from formal education spaces. Quality-wise, while you can slack through it, you get what you bring in, so wanting to learn a lot and being willing to work, makes for a positive learning situation. The downside? You have to be entirely self-motivated. If you even have class sessions, they are typically spent staring at a computer screen, wondering if you look as asleep as the other people in the class.

There’s also the challenge of a lack of interactive feedback. This is especially a drawback in language learning. It works like this: I do an assignment, and turn it end. If it turns out that I am misunderstanding a concept, then I’ll fail the whole assignment. But, because there’s not any other way to interact, that’s the only way to find out if I am understanding a concept. The result is a highly frustrating mix of learning while getting failing or nearly-failing grades. Professors typically put heavier weight on exams to counteract this, which helps.

But it is a discouragement issue. Plus, the lack of general fellowship is tiresome. While I have some friends among the student body, we’re all pretty scattered in both classes and geography.

All this to say—I’m out for a while. I am most likely going to rethink the doctoral level work I intend to pursue, with an eye toward a more practical degree instead of the theoretical Ph.D.

That means that in a couple of weeks I’ll wrap up the German and French classes I had already paid for when I made this decision, and reshuffle my energy. My hope is to invest some time in a writing project or two—possibly even one that generates a dollar in revenue.

Beyond that, I will continue to preach and blog, pastor and teach, and hopefully find some better ways to be an encourager and Internet genius. As always, I’m here if you need me, dear readers…but I will do much better if you contact me in English than in German or French! I will be switching over and doing homeschool German and Latin with the kids, but the pacing is very, very different on those—so I’ll keep nerding up. Just a little differently.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book: The Theology of the Westminster Standards


Today’s book is provided by Crossway Publishers, and I received a free e-book version for the purpose of reviewing. Crossway is nice to give free content, and cheap to send digitally. I appreciate the former and understand the latter.

The Theology of the Westminster Standards, by J.V. Fesko, is a serious book. That’s the first statement I would make: you’re not in for light reading here. Additionally, you may find yourself needing to either read the actual Westminster Standards or consult your favorite Presbyterian to grapple with the content. After all, why bother with the theology of something you have never read?

Fesko’s work breaks down the collection of documents known as the Westminster Standards, which includes the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Form of Church Government. The focus is on the Confession and two Catechisms.

The material is organized around the general categories of systematic theology, tracing how the Standards speak to the doctrines of Scripture, God, Christology, and more. I would recommend you be familiar with the general academics of theology before tackling these chapters, though this work could be your introduction. A more general introduction, though, would be of benefit to you.

I found the first chapter the most beneficial, as it covers the historical context of the writing of the Westminster Standards. (Technically, I suppose it’s the 2nd chapter, as the Introduction is labeled Chapter 1.) This chapter serves the valuable role of reminding the reader of what is going on, and has gone on, in the world around Westminster when the Standards come into being.

Fesko’s writing style is accessible, but does require a willingness to focus in and read. I recommend a notepad and a Bible close at hand. It is worth your time, especially if you are looking for the historical foundations of Reformed Theology.

If you are a casual reader, you’ll need to stretch out to tackle this one. If your interest in theology is either “gotcha” games for tweetable lines or feel-good only, then you need to give this a pass or be prepared for frustration.

If you’re out for a deeper understanding, this is a good look at Reformed Theology, especially in its initial settings.

Free book provided in exchange for the review.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Follow your heart? Deuteronomy 11

In Summary: You are welcome to check the prior Deuteronomy entries to catch up on the setting at this point. I think it would belabor the point to rehash it all, so I’ll move on.

That is, after all, what Moses is doing in this chapter. We are through with the recapitulation of the journey and have moved on to the final preparation for the journey in. Moses is giving instructions for what the people are to inside the Promised Land.

It is noteworthy that the warning is consistently about idolatry. Not specifically about the making of graven images or carved images, but about the shifting of allegiances from YHWH, Covenant God of Israel, to other gods. Even with all that God had done for the Israelites, this remained their greatest danger.

It was an even greater danger than immorality! Most of the condemnation of immorality that comes on the Israelites in the years to come stem from the blending of immorality with the worship of idols. Their pursuit of wealth to the point of injustice also starts there: seeking more to build bigger idols.

This is certainly worth noting in our day. It is extraordinarily easy to find fault with immorality, and immorality is everywhere to be found. We should, perhaps, pay greater attention to where worship is centered than we do with what behavior occurs. Why? Because behavior follows worship. Focusing on behavior only makes an idol of the rules (or of breaking them!)


In Focus: I would like to put the focus on one particular verse today. Take a long, hard look at 11:16 about making sure your hearts are not deceived, and pulled away to worship another god.

The people of Israel are being warned here that they cannot trust their hearts to guide their worship. The heart can be deceived—and so “follow your heart” becomes bad advice. It is worth noting, though, that heart here implies not only emotions but the will and thoughts as well.

Every part of our decision making process is vulnerable to deception if we are not careful, not just our emotions. It is, however, preventable. A deceived heart is an option.

In Practice: If that is the case, then what do we do? How do we prevent the deception of our hearts?

First, we remember what God has done for us. How easily we forget, it seems, the distance that God has covered for us. Eternity is no small thing, and yet He came for us anyway. Our memory should be filled with the knowledge of what God has done, and this anchors us against drifting from His truth.

Second, we actively seek to learn His word. In this, we do not simply trust memory, for we are blessed to have an available Bible. The more we pour in the Word of God, the less likely we are to fall into deception.

Third, we join together with our fellow believers. Not a one of us are smart enough, nor committed enough, to walk alone before the Lord God Almighty. Let us join each other to strengthen and encourage, and hold one another close as we walk the path God has given us.


In Nerdiness: Just a short nerd moment in Deuteronomy 11:10. Moses refers to the use of the foot to water the land in Egypt. This is attested to by history as we see pictures of treadmill and pedal powered irrigation systems.


That’s right—we can see how these worked. And the difference in Egypt and Canaan? Rain. Rain watered the land, and there were myriads of small, seasonal streams. There was no need for major irrigation works to sustain life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday Wanderings: September 17

Today, let’s take a buzz through Ezra. Why?

Why not?

Don’t think we’re going to be rebuilding the Holy City after the dominance of the Persian Empire?

You’re probably right.

Are there some principles here? I think there are a few and they bear on both spiritual and political issues of our day.

First, spiritually: do we take advantage of the freedom to worship that exists in our world right now? The Persians permitted a limited freedom of public worship, just as we Americans have at this point. Are we using it or avoiding it?

Second, politically: Persia had a policy of returning conquered people to their homelands. Why? Because it wasn’t worth the hassle to meddle in their lives by yanking folks all over the map. Guess what, governing folks? The more you meddle, the more difficult it is to govern. Take a page from Cyrus and let it go. As long as people pay their taxes, why stress about the minutiae of their lives? Let the people live.

Third, spiritually: adversity will come against your public expression of worship. When that occurs, appeal to the authorities who are responsible for safeguarding that freedom and retain your willingness to worship privately. Our inability to worship publicly should not hamper our private worship.

Fourth, politically: Cyrus acknowledges that he is king thanks to the “God of heaven.” Now, he may not have truly been a believer—and he may have praised the gods of many other nations—but the key idea is this: politically, do you understand that you are not the top of the universe? There is more to life than you, be it Deity or vox populii, and you would do well to remember that.

Fifth, spiritually: Ezra has a long streak on purity among the people, and one that is oft-misunderstood. Ezra seeks a worshiping people that are unified. In that day, religious purity and ethnic identity ran on the same tracks. On this side of the Cross (and even on that side, if you look back at the Law and inclusion rules) the only ethnicity that matters for unity is the Blood of Christ.

That’s what this all comes back to: are we looking to see the Kingdom of God? There are opportunities to be outposts of that Kingdom—take them and use them!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sermon Recap for September 14

Admission time:
1. I didn't preach Sunday morning. Tim Yarbrough from the Arkansas Baptist News did. He did well. I don't have his outline.
2. I did preach Sunday night. I also taught a discipleship session beforehand. I recorded both, but I just don't like the quality of presentation. Way too much rambling from me on both, likely related to my mind not being fully on-task. Ann was on her way home, flying from Florida to Texas to Arkansas. 
Therefore, I take my punt for the year and I'm not posting either video or audio from that night. Here's the outline:

Sept 14 PM Haggai

Haggai 2:4, 9: The Spirit is here, and the glory is the Lord's--
Haggai 2:21–23 (NASB95)
21  “Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, ‘I am going to shake the heavens and the earth.
22  ‘I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another.’
23  ‘On that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ ” declares the Lord of hosts.
1. Commitment to obedience

2. Do not disdain what blessings God brings

3. Recognize that what we get here will, and should be, less than when it is obviously the work of our Great God

In the Wilderness: Luke 3

In Summary: Luke moves the story back to John the Baptist in this chapter, working through his preaching up to his arrest by Herod the Tetrarch. This chapter shows Luke’s ongoing historical work by providing background on the life of Jesus more than details about His life. The chapter mentions Jesus by name in two verses, refers to Him clearly in about three more, and spends the rest describing surrounding situations.

The opening section of the chapter deals with John the Baptist’s preaching. It is worth noting that Luke does not refer to him, at this point, as John “the Baptist.” He is simply John. Matthew and Mark use the descriptive term of “the Baptist,” perhaps to differentiate this one from the Apostle John. Returning to Luke, notice the description of John in Luke 3:2. “The word of God came to John.” Now, take a quick gander at any of these: Jeremiah 1:2, Ezekiel 1:3, Hosea 1:1, Jonah 1:1, Malachi 1:1, Zephaniah 1:1, 1 Kings 12:22.

What do we see? “The word of God” or “The word of YHWH” comes to someone—and that person is a prophet. Luke is identifying John with the prophets of the Old Testament here, and we see in John’s preaching that he mirrors the prophets. The prophets came on the scene, typically, to announce major movements of God, proclaim God’s judgments, or anoint new kings—especially kings that were regime changes. Some prophets did more of these than others, but the prophets generally fit those categories.

John’s ministry can be summed up in the same terms. First, he announces the major movement of God: the Incarnation. Luke 3:4-6 quotes from Isaiah (and Malachi) regarding the coming of the Messiah. There is something here about how prophets never contradict each other when speaking the Word of God, but we’ll leave it be. Second, John calls out the sins of the people. It’s a two stage process where he first expresses judgment to come, and then provides a clear pathway to live in response and repentance. Finally, he anoints the new King. Rather than a simple oil-on-the-head process, though, he baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River. Take a look back at Leviticus 8:2 and Psalm 133:2 and see how Aaron was anointed with an excess as high priest, and then see the pouring of oil on the kings. Jesus, though, is baptized in water…

Because He does not need anointing as King, for He came already as King, and the title Messiah means quite literally “Anointed One.” It is who He is, not who He became. John’s action pictures this for the people, not accomplishes for Jesus.

In Focus: The focus I want to put on the passage is the pairing of Luke 4:2-3 and Luke 4:18. Notice how John has “the word of God” wherein he preaches repentance and obedience, and then Luke summarizes this as “the gospel” in the latter verse. Even in John’s preaching, we should note the inseparable nature of these items: repentance, obedience, the righteousness of Christ, and the gospel. Any alleged gospel that does not both proclaim the sinfulness of man and our need for repentance and the holiness and grace of God who came for us is a deficient gospel.

In Practice
: The hard part of these posts for me is always this section: how do we make understanding this concept practical? What do we do about it? What if I give principles that some folks don’t grasp?


And what if my attempts to give practical ideas lead some to legalism and not grace?

We’ll start there, then:

First, legalism is not the Gospel. Don’t live like it is. Legalism would take only the preaching of John about behavior and make that the focus of life. Are you entirely focused on dos and don’ts? Let that go, it is not the Gospel to not do a list. And if you are preaching it, or your preacher is preaching it, then it needs to stop. Preachers, stop it, and church members? You have a responsibility to be part of a Gospel preaching church, not a legalism preaching church. Get out if it can’t be made right.

Second, responsibilities are part of obeying the Gospel. Don’t ignore them. John preached that there were things to do for those who acknowledged the coming King. We need to see this as well: the forgiveness of God is not a free pass to chaos. Rather, we bear responsibilities to each other in the community of the King.

Third, the focus goes on the Messiah. Don’t put it elsewhere. John never makes it about himself. It is either about how the people need to respond to God or about God Himself. It’s never about John. How much of our life is that way?

In Nerdiness: Luke’s an historian, so there is so much nerd to do here. First, we get another time reference in the first few verses. There has been criticism and clarification about the names and titles, and while some doubted that Luke accurately portrayed the politicians of the time, generally it’s seen that he was not wrong. How he knew about Lysanias way out in West Texas is still up for debate. (Abilene? Thank you, tip your waitresses…)

Second, we hang a major chronology on one verse here: Luke 4:23. Jesus was “about thirty years of age” at the outset of His ministry. That word is used in Greek for the same thing in English: approximation of numbers. Some folks get remarkably worked up about exactly how old Jesus was, bodily, but this is all we have. Which means that the only way to accurately date events is through the referents like Luke uses about who is king, tetrarch, etc…


Third, the genealogy. Let’s get this out of the way: there are differences in Luke and Matthew regarding the family line of Jesus. The simplest explanation given is that one traces Mary and one Joseph, but there are some who doubt that conclusion. Another one is that Matthew is tracing a legal, kingship line and Luke the biological. I am unwilling to stake out a claim beyond this: somehow, if Scripture is inspired and error-free, both are right. I believe the front half of that statement.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

System Requirements: Deuteronomy 10

In Summary: Moses continues recapping the events at Mount Sinai that occurred with the previous generation. In this chapter, he covers the fallout from the Golden Calf incident, including explaining the rise of the Levites to service as priests and teachers.

It is is worth noting that the Levites rose to this position because of their zeal in standing for God’s requirements. When the Israelites were falling to sin at the Mountain, it was the Levites who separated from the people to stand with Moses. First they demonstrated self-control, and then a willingness to execute judgment even on their own kinsmen.

Also noted is the dispersal of the Levites among the people. It is often noted that this was so they could teach others, but I would point out the other value. Levites were not only the instructors of God’s law but had a hand in the enforcement of it. The tribe was ordained to this work because they valued obedience to God over personal loyalty. The system of Israelite governance relied on that commitment.

In Focus: Tightening our focus a little more, though, we see Deuteronomy 10:12. Moses highlights that the expectations of YHWH are not immense. It is remarkably easy to see the system of laws as overcomplicated. Any legal system that is overcomplicated becomes too burdensome and repressive—and impossible to fulfill.

When we look at Deuteronomy 10:12-13, we see the Law in its simplest form. Moses asks the question: “What does YHWH require of you?” He then presents these answers:

1. Fear God: this is the first thing God requires. Fear is more than our simple idea of “to be afraid.” It involves a respect and recognition of the immensity and the power of God, of our unworthiness to come before Him in our sin. Fear is a good thing.

2. Walk in all His ways: the Israelites were not to pick and choose what portions of God’s law to obey. All of them, including the care for the needy and oppressed that God commanded. After all, Micah 6:8 brings it back before the Israelites, and us: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

3. Love Him: heartfelt, deep-seated devotion. The human emotional system is not always steadfast, but the Israelites were told to train it, hold God close to their desires.

4. Serve Him: this refers to the practical act of obedience, but the Israelites are commanded to do so with the fullness of their being. The goal was not that they would empty-headedly go through the motions, but their hearts would be in it.

5. Keep His commandments and statutes, which are given for the good of the Israelites: that last summation is to remind the people that the laws were not about burdens nor were they arbitrary.

I would note one additional factor that ties these verses together. Note the presence of the personal, covenant name of God, as well as the interplay between the name of God and pronouns, referring back to God. While we can, and need to, break down this down to a list, these concepts are not separable.

In Practice: What do we do with this? First, we fear God. It is that simple to start with. Fear God. We must recognize our need for salvation, and only God can provide for that need.

Second, we practice the same things that the Israelites were to practice: justice, mercy, and walking in God’s ways. For every decision that you need to make, ask yourself if it fits those three categories. If it does not, then you should not do it.

Third, we keep our hearts fixed on God. With all of the life that clamors for our attention, keep your heart fixed in the right place. That will take effort.

In Nerdiness: Deuteronomy 10:19 is a fun one for nerds. In the NASB, we see that God’s people are to show love for…aliens.

That’s just fun.


Then you back up a few verses to 10:16 and see where, even here, God is more concerned with the condition of the heart than the ceremonial behaviors of the body. How many more times does that show up in Scripture? It echoes from the Law to the Prophets to Galatians and other of the Epistles.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book: Biblical Portraits of Creation

This week’s book is brought to you by Cross-Focused Reviews. As always, a free book was provided in exchange for the review.

I was not quite certain what to expect with Biblical Portraits of Creation. On the one hand, I thought it would be a look at evidences of Creation, but on the other hand I thought I might present some internal Biblical commentary on Creation. This was definitely more of the latter.

First, let us take a peek at organization. The meat of this work is twelve chapters that highlight a specific Biblical description of God’s work in Creation. These are laid out semi-sermonically, with outlines and key words, as well as fully developed explanations. A specific passage is examined by one of the two authors, either Walter Kaiser or Dorington Little, and these provide an insight into seeing God’s work in creation.

Second, let us consider the underlying assumptions here. As Kaiser works through in the appendix addressing the literary form of Genesis 1-11, the assumption here is that the Creation account is to be taken as historical narrative above any other genre. That is, while there is room for hyperbolic and symbolic expression in these chapters, overall they should be understood as recounting actual history rather than legend. This is not a fault, but is simply the reality.

Third, let us ponder the value of this study. Kaiser and Little present to the reader the glory of God in Creation. Without getting into the finer details of defending or explaining Creation scientifically, they focus on the Scriptural concepts and praises of God for His work. This is a different approach, and it brings the value to this book. I have often seen books and articles that point out the value of Creation for doctrine, that point out the science or logic behind the accounts. This one draws forth the praise to God due from His work.

That sums up the value. I find this a helpful look at passages ranging from Genesis 1 to Psalm 104, from 2 Corinthians 5 to Isaiah 65. Well worth your time.

Free book in exchange for the review.

Book: Sheerluck Holmes and the Case of the Missing Friend

What can I say? It’s a VeggieTales Book! It’s also a bit lower on my reading level. I thought it would make a nice change of pace for my reading, and for yours. It also provides the opportunity to push back against some of the criticism that I see Bob and Larry draw from many of my fellow grumpy Baptist bloggers. We should keep in mind that they are vegetables, not theologians, and are therefore entitled to be simple and silly.

Today’s book is Sheerluck Holmes and the Case of the Missing Friend. It’s at the “I can read! Stage 1” level, meaning a target of mostly beginner readers. Let’s break down three areas:

1. Ease of reading. This is simply worded. The sentences are short. The vocabulary does not include big words like vocabulary. “Suddenly,” “beautiful,” and “policeman” appear to be the largest words I can find. The grammar is simple. So, easy to read. Great for your beginning reader.

2. Illustrations. These are full-color and accurately represent the VeggieTales characters. The colors are softly muted, not as bright as the cover art. It’s a nice effect, and I find it helpful for using this as a good night reader: rather than super-bright Bob, he’s a bit calmer. Also fits the London Fog motif.

3. Moral. VeggieTales try to teach a moral alongside pointing out that God made you special and He loves you very much. Here, the moral is about treating our friends with respect. This is handled well. For the nitpickers, of course it’s all sewn up nicely and neatly, and the real world’s not always that way.

Too bad for the real world.

I laughed, I cried…it moved me, Bob. It’s a great extra book to have around if you have new readers in your life. Grab one.

Zondervan gave me the book, because I asked for it. I asked for it because I thought it would be good, and then I found it to be good. So, yes, I was pre-biased. But not by pressure from Zondervan but by a love for a talking Tomato. Whether sitting or standing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In the Temple: Luke 2

In Summary: Taking a fresh read at Luke 2, this stood out to me: while we frequently go here for the Christmas story, much more happens in the Temple than happens in Bethlehem. Let’s take a look at the whole chapter, then we’ll focus on the Temple.

First, we see Luke set the historical stage by giving a date reference. Do you see it? It’s in the first two verses. Just because he does not use a calendar set up like ours does not mean there’s no date here. For the typical Greco-Roman reader, historical time was framed around major events more than specific dates. After all, the Roman calendar started with an event: the founding of the city. The narrowing down within the year was not as important to Luke’s initial audience as it is for us. We have major debates over the date and season for the birth of Christ, partly because we read Luke for clues that he did not include.

Second, we see Luke move rapidly through the birth of Jesus. The Incarnation, the Word becoming flesh to dwell among us (John 1), gets a verse: Luke 2:7. I would suggest that Luke includes the birth narrative out of necessity, but the point to be drawn is the apparent mundane nature of Jesus’ birth. Just a boy, born on the road while His parents obeyed Caesar’s decree. One possible reason for this? It was common among the mythologies and legends of Greece and Rome (keep in mind, much of Greek mythology was simply adopted over into Roman mythology) for important people to have bizarre births. And with those bizarre births came the question: Why didn’t anyone pick up on this strange birth? Luke is, perhaps, explaining to Theophilus how obscure Jesus’ birth was, in relation to the Empire, and excusing Theophilus for not knowing.

As a practical aside here, we Christians often hurt our relationship with the world around us by being aghast that they don’t know what we know. We should consider Luke and emulate him here. Explain things to remove ignorance rather than run about lamenting it.

Third, we see the angel of the Lord, and we see the heavenly host, and they are praising Jesus. Luke has no record of the Magi. He draws the extremes of the spectrum: shepherds and heavenly warriors. In society of the time, it doesn’t get much lower…or higher. And both are present.

Finally, though, we move out of Bethlehem. Actually, it only takes 20 verses, half of which aren’t in Bethlehem anyway. Then we go to the Temple, to Nazareth, and back to the Temple. The Temple is the setting for the bulk of the chapter.


In Focus: We see Jesus in the Temple at two major times in His life, at about 40 days and at 12 years old. The first time, He is met by Simeon and Anna, who acclaim Him as Messiah. The second time? This is the famous moment where He points out that “He must be about His Father’s business.”

These segments in the Temple give us an important focus for the life of Jesus. We see here that the Glory of God has come to the Temple again, just as it did the first Temple in the days of Solomon. We also see another important factor: Jesus was there. Right there. He was seen, knowable, and real. He does not appear at the point of His baptism or at some other random moment: Luke describes Him at birth, circumcision, purification, and attaining adulthood. This is all the childhood of Jesus that we need to see: enough to establish His existence in those years.


In Practice: What can we do with this? First, we can note that God worked in the Temple, where He had worked many times before. If there is a place where God’s Word is consistently proclaimed and attended to, then we should not surprised to see God work in lives there. Here it is the Temple, but where is it now? Perhaps the local church, where God’s people consistently gather to look to the Word? This is where our effort and attention should focus: Bible-teaching, Bible-practicing local gatherings of believers. Whether you have a building or not is not the issue at hand, but the heart is.

Second, we see that Jesus went through the ordinary stages of growth for a Jewish lad of the first century. If it was necessary for the Messiah to do this, then why do we expect to short-circuit ordinary methods of growth and maturity ourselves?

In Nerdiness: Much debate comes among the nerdy set about what we can know about the exact date of Christmas from this passage. Well, first, let’s be clear: Christmas is December 25. End of story—because it’s a religious festival date set initially by the Constantine-era Church.

The date of the birth of Christ is another matter entirely. It is most likely not December 25: there are 365 days in a year, so if you just pick at random you’ve got a 1/365 chance to be right. Further, historically the calendars have shifted a few times through the years. Here are the factors, though, to be considered:
1. The time of the announcement to Zacharias of John the Baptist, which leads into the proclamation to Mary.
2. The time when shepherds would be in the fields near Bethlehem, unless the Angel of the Lord goes to shepherds elsewhere in the “region,” which is Judea, in which case it’s a meaningless addition.
3. The overall cycles of life and when other events occur that allow you to work backwards to the birth of Christ.


What do we know, then? Not much. Scripture is not clear about the timing and the date—not beyond the year. It’s certainly not worth the angst that some people pour out over it, as if celebrating the birth of Christ on any given day is worth dividing the people of God. Take the time to celebrate…or don’t, as Scripture contains no command to do so. But don’t think we know what we don’t…

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sermon Wrap-Up for September 7

Good Monday to you! Yesterday saw our annual cookout for the first Sunday in September, so there is only a morning sermon for you. Next week we'll have a guest preacher in the morning service, so I cannot say if he'll allow being recorded or not, so there may just be an evening message.

Morning Sermon: Humiliation or Destruction? Daniel 4 & 5





Humiliation or Destruction? Daniel 4 and 5 from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

September 7 Daniel 4-5

DatePassageLocationTitleFront Porch
September 7 AMDaniel 4 & 5Almyra BaptistHumiliated or Destroyed?The question for us is this: will we be humiliated or destroyed?

I. (3 minutes) Front Porch: Today, we compare two kings who opposed God--and decide which king will be our example.
     A. We don't do kings in America--we all consider ourselves king of our own life
     B. We are going to look at Daniel 4 and 5 to consider a pair of kings, choosing which one will be our example to follow
     C. The question for us is this: will we be humiliated or destroyed?
II. (3 minutes) Entryway: We have choices to make:

     A. Most importantly: will we follow God's way?
     B. Typically, though, we face a crisis before we make that decision.
III. (2-3 minutes) Hallway: Babylon
     A. Daniel--although Ch. 4 is 1st person report from King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar
     B. Ch. 5 occurs as the Medo-Persian Empire eliminates the Babylonian Empire (October 12, 539 BC)
     

IV. (3-5 minutes, only if necessary) Sitting Room: extended look at background
     A. Archaic name of "Belshazzar"
     B. Father/son=predecessor/successor in kingship matters: note Romans in 1st-3rd Century, Jordanians in 20th (HRH Abdullah I to HRH Hussein)
     C. Chapter 4: 570 BC (ish) Ch. 5: October 12, 539 BC (per Herodotus and Xenophon)
     
V. (5-7 minutes) Kitchen: God brings discipline into the lives of people
     A. God sends warnings about discipline
     B. God has foreknowledge of our responses
     C. We retain responsibility for our actions
     D. God demonstrates both justice and mercy
VI. (7-9 Minutes) Dining Room (personal growth)/Living Room (immediate life application)
     A. How this nourishes us as believers: There is grace on the other side of discipline
               1. Listen to the Word: notice the warning to Nebby K and what Belshazzar should have known
               2. Do not crave the validation of the world
     B. How we live it out in our families, lives, jobs, etc...
               1. Keep the Praise where it belongs: unto the LORD!
               2. Work well and do well, as unto Jesus: Colossians 3:23
               3. Pass on useful information: note the work of the Queen Mother
VII. (3-5 Minutes) The Door: wide world impact
     A. Be Daniel: we do not want the world's rewards, we want to be faithful
     B. Be repentant: better to be Nebby K than to be Belshazzar
     C. Be open: proclaim and stand forward
VIII. (1 minute) The Back Porch: repeat the point
     A. Take humility
     B. Avoid Destruction    
     C. Eschew Worldly Rewards and pursue the truth

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
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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.

5. Each blog has a “Follow” button and a “Subscribe via Email” option

6. Follow on Facebook: Doug’s Page or the First Baptist Almyra Page

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In the Desert: Luke 1

In Summary: Luke’s Gospel begins with background information. Luke 1 is one of the longest chapters of the New Testament. It may be the longest, but I haven’t double-checked that against anything, so I’ll not assert it here. In this chapter, Luke establishes his purpose for writing and then moves forward to the information about the impending coming of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

This chapter touches on the experiences of Mary, Elizabeth, Zacharias, and Gabriel. Notably absent is Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband, whose angelic visit comes in Matthew 1 (for those of you harmonizing Gospels), mentioned here only in connection to Mary. Also worth noting is the piety Luke notes in both women mentioned. Mary and Elizabeth are noted for piety, Elizabeth perhaps more even than Mary, though Mary’s commendation is from Gabriel himself. Luke renders the judgment on Elizabeth.

Further, Luke spends much of the chapter on Elizabeth, Zacharias, and John (who will be called John the Baptist). While the birth of Christ is foretold and the beautiful passage known as the Magnificat are both here, Luke 1 clearly highlights John’s origins as we see Zacharias’ vision, Elizabeth’s joy, and the praise of John by the people (Luke 1:66) as they marvel at what he might be.
In Focus: John, however, takes the proper approach to the praise and wonder of the people. Certainly taught by his parents about the purpose of his life, John withdraws from the public life of his hometown. Rather than stay to be seen to “increase in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52) as Jesus does, John heads into the deserts of the Judean wilderness.

It is worth noting that we do not know when John made his withdrawal—a hyper-literal reading of Luke 1:80 would have him departing soon after birth. While it is possible that Zacharias withdrew from active priestly service and took his family to the wilderness for seclusion, I would suggest the text be read as John willfully withdrawing, and that would place his departure around his age of adulthood. Likely in his teens, a time when most young men are chasing after things to satisfy desires or please themselves (present company shamefully included), John instead made the choice to remove himself from temptation.

Not only the temptation for him to be sidetracked and sin, but also the temptation to seek his own fame. Further, he spares the town the temptation to set John up as a substitute for the true coming Messiah. This shows a wisdom that reflects both the hand of God upon him and a knowledge of the Word. That knowledge covers both himself and Jesus.
In Practice: First off, we must establish that Jesus has already come, and when He comes again it will be without any additional warning. So, there are no more John the Baptists out there. I would immediately warn you from anyone who compares himself to John, Elijah, or any other Biblical prophet. There is no Scripture to support the idea that infallible prophets roam about anymore.

Second, let us consider John’s actions. He is at risk in his hometown, he is at risk in the spotlight. He recognizes a need for maturity and a need to step up at the right time. He also knows, as we see in John 3:30, that Jesus is more important and he cannot get in the way of the message and the Messiah.

Practically speaking, we should note the same things. Our risks run down the same rails, and typically start by being in the spotlight before we are mature enough for it. I would name names here, but those examples will have already flashed and burned before too much longer and the point will still be valid: a maturity that shows in character should be developed before someone steps into the spotlight.

Further, the spotlight should find them, being faithful, rather than be sought out. After all, John reappears on the stage of events still in the desert. People go to him as the Spirit works through him. He steps forward in obedience, has his moments to point to the Messiah, and then is gone. So should we be, especially those of us with positions of trust in the church. The moment that a minister stands in the way of the Messiah? Or sets himself in the place of Him? That’s the moment he has to step away.

For this reason, it is valuable that all who would preach of the One-Who-Has-Come-and-Will-Come-Again should spend some time in the desert. Likewise, I think we see that God brings his people through that desert. It gives us strength, perspective, and a great place to begin. Are you in the desert? Then study the Word, pray, and look for the work that God brings. It will be amazing..

In Nerdiness: Can’t really go through Luke 1 without talking about Theophilus and Luke’s purpose in writing. Generally speaking, it’s thought that Luke wrote Luke and Acts as a two-volume work. Some suggest that it was intended to be a 3-volume work, and this explains Acts’ abrupt ending. I’m not sure.

It is clear that Luke’s biography of Jesus and the acts of the followers of Jesus is similar in style to many Greco-Roman biographies. You have the Divine Announcement, the herald, the life of the important person (Jesus, in Luke’s case), and the results of their life. Luke is clearly using that style.

So is Theophilus a real person? The name can be taken as what it means: Friend of God. Or it can be a person. We don’t know. One theory out there is that Theophilus is Luke’s name for the trial judge in Paul’s case, explaining the ending of Acts. The result of Paul’s house arrest? It depends on Theophilus and how he receives this.

I’m not sure I buy that, but it’s feasible. Clearly, though, we know this: Luke wrote knowing other Gospels existed, and sought to establish a clear record as well. That’s valuable to keep in mind: Luke knew multiple witnesses were valuable, and added his.

Services Recapped for September 13

Good evening! Here are the services from Sunday, September 13: 9 AM Service: 11 AM Service: Evening Service: And the Morning Reflections are...