Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In Debt: Luke 7

In Summary: Luke 7 shows us a combination of teaching and preaching in the life of Jesus. We get the healing of the centurion’s servant, the raising of the widow’s son in Nain, and John’s disciples asking for some clarity about who Jesus is. These came on behalf of John.

The raising of the widow’s son raises some chronological questions, because none of the Gospel writers were intent on satisfying our timeline-oriented society. It appears to be the first recorded time that Jesus demonstrates His power over death, though there are statements about Him doing so elsewhere. Further, in the answer to John the Baptist, we see Jesus refer to “the dead are raised” (7:22) as if this has happened more than once. Notice that this healing is met with both fear and worship (7:16), and we never see Jesus preach a funeral—He just raises the dead.

John’s disciples come to ask a question from their imprisoned leader. Apparently, though John had been certain about Jesus, he was starting to have doubts. Jesus deals with those and in the process explains who John was. He also contrasts the differing lifestyles of Himself and John, and points out that there is no way to make some people happy.


In Focus: Then comes the major story of this chapter. Jesus goes to dinner with a Pharisee. Let that soak for a moment. As much as He criticized Pharisees, He still ate with them. While they are having dinner, a woman comes in and washes His feet with her tears. Then she anoints His feet with perfume.

The Pharisee mutters under his breath that if Jesus had any spiritual sense, He would know what kind of sinner this woman was—hinting that the Lord was being made a partner to her sin by sitting there. Jesus responds by pointing out how one who has been forgiven much, loves much—especially compared to the one who has been forgiven only a little.

Being a good Pharisee, the critic does not comprehend that he, too, needed much forgiveness. Considering the parable Jesus used to illustrate the point shows that the Pharisee was in need as well. Jesus highlights forgiveness by telling of two men who were in monetary debt. Both would likely be a lifetime trying to pay it back—one would die with a little less debt than the other. Both were forgiven, but the one whose debt was bigger was more gracious. Both were in trouble, but only one truly recognized it.


In Practice: Have you ever been in debt to moneylenders? I have, and still am. It’s a long story that involves a combination of bad choices and the housing market collapse. Suffice it to say, I could have much love for some financial institutions if they were forgiving. They are not—and don’t let anyone fool you, the “loss” that many banks have taken on mortgages is a “loss” of profits—on mine, they only made $25K in 4 years instead of $30K had it been paid off perfectly at sale. (Don’t worry, they were made “whole” through tax money approved in 2009.)

I digress: we all know what it’s like to be indebted. Maybe you have been fortunate to avoid the monetary debt, but it takes an isolated life to never owe something to another, even if you only owe affection and compassion. We are not sufficient for ourselves, and so find ourselves always needing others. That sense of indebtedness is not always bad, but sometimes we feel a debt we’ll never repay. And then we’re told not to worry about it and we feel relief that bleeds over into admiration for the giver.

Why? Because they were not “made whole” on their loss, but instead absorbed it as part of their character. As part of their grace and humility. Sometimes, because they were once forgiven and pass that on. However it may slice, they did it because forgiving was part of who they chose to be, not because they were forced to.

Take this, and amplify it. Jesus forgives not because He is compelled to by another, nor because He is made whole by anything else, but because it who He choose to be. He chooses to be the healer of our souls, the forgiver of our sins. He chose to be the sacrifice to pay to make it possible—the reality is there is no aspect where the Lord is not the Lord in forgiving. He is in charge, choosing through it all.

If we are to be like Him, we will note two practices. First, we will practice humility by seeking His forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. We know we have done wrong, and it is the better part of growth to admit that upfront. I need forgiveness, you need forgiveness. And err on the side of assuming you need it, rather than thinking you have done no wrong.

Second we should adopt the attitude of the Lord and be forgiving. There is much more about how relationships are affected, sometimes permanently, due to sin. The focus is this here: we ought to forgive, and we ought to allow room for the Lord God to forgive. Holding grudges does no good, and assuming that because we know someone’s sin means that God and everyone else needs reminded is questionable. There are times to warn, and times to let the past be the past. Jesus was in no danger from the woman, so why the Pharisee’s concern? Only religio-pious-babble. If that’s what you have, then let it go.

In Nerdiness: The biggest nerd item here is standard Synoptic Gospel questions: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record an anointing of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and John reference the anointing in the Passion Week and place it in Bethany. Luke’s event is geographically disconnected—He’s been in Capernaum and Nain, but we do not know where Jesus is in Luke 7.


Are these all tellings of the same event? Or does it occur more than once? If it is the same, then Mary (of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus) is the “sinful woman” of Luke 7. If it’s not the same, then one has other questions…this is why we read, and re-read. We learn as we go.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sermon Recap for October 19

The past few weeks, I have tried preaching without notes. I think I'm going to stop not using notes and start using notes. Yes, stop stopping the notes and start starting them back.


Morning Sermon: KING!! John 6/Matthew 14



John 6: KING! from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.



Evening Sermon: Battle-hardened Hearts: Luke 9:51-56



Concluding Notes:
1. I do have the rough audio of Sunday Night’s Q&A session, but I’m not sure yet that it’s useful for posting.
2. I am not sure how to improve video quality with the current equipment.
3. If you want to subscribe, here’s a list:
A. iTunes for audio subscription link is here.
B. General Audio RSS feed for other programs is here.
C. If you’re a Stitcher User, the link is here
D. For Vimeo Video, subscribe to this channel: https://vimeo.com/channels/almyrafbc
E. For Youtube Video, subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/user/dheagle93/

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

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book: Lost in Translation

^-A really cool book!

Explaining Lost in Translation from Ella Frances Sanders results in, well, losing things in translation. This little hardcover book—and you want it in book, as there is no way that the Kindle version does the illustrations justice—is only 112 pages. The binding feels good, and the colors are simple and vibrant.

Sanders presents the reader with words that do not come well into English, alongside an extended definition. These words come from current languages and fading languages. Japanese, Gaelic, Urdu, German, Wagiman, and Yaghan all have a mention, as do Dutch, Yiddish, and Arabic.

The only complaint that I can make about this book is that there are places where the word or definition attempt blends too easily into the illustration. For example, “Jayus” blends well into the artwork behind the word, and the definition of “Szimpatikus” was a little hard to pull out from the artwork. Again, they can be seen—I think it’s more a matter of how well my eyes are working, or not working, on any given day.

This book will take you more than a pisan zapra to read, but in the span of kalpa, it’s not much. So don’t be a warmduscher,  pour up a tretÃ¥r, and don’t practice tsundoku with this one. You might even experience a bit of forelsket as you read it.

This was a free book, and worth twice what I gave for it. Actually, it was free in exchange for the review. It looked cool. It is actually more than a little cool.

Politics and Preaching Briefly Summarized

If we take these things:

1. Politics is the art and science of citizens handling their collective business; AND

2. Preaching is part of how God works to transform His people into the image and likeness of His Son, affecting their behavior in private and in public; THEREFORE

3. Any preaching which is not political is useless frippery because all preaching seeks to affect the behavior of listeners; affected listeners will behave in a certain manner in the collective business of the city; this is politics.

Love your neighbor as yourself is political preaching. So is render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's.

So also the Bible-driven ethics of marriage and family; equal value of all people regardless of race, gender, ethnicity; importance of life; value of education.

There is nothing worth preaching that does not, in some way, affect political behavior.

I preach politics, then, because if I preach Jesus is Lord, the behavior of citizens in community should be changed.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book: The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel

<-Is it a book? Or is it an analogous stand-in for a book, representing the book to come and replaced by it?

 

The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel is not a single-author book. This is a collection of essays from contributors based out of a conference held in October, 2013. Darrel I. Bock and Mitch Glaser edited the 344 page volume. Mine is paperback, and a Kindle version is available. I assume that they are the same.

The format runs like this: each chapter is the introduced by the editors. Then, the author presents a self-contained essay on the given topic. These are interdependent, but not interwoven—you can read Craig Evans’ chapter on “Israel according to the Book of Hebrews and the General Epistles” without tackling anything in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Scriptures, as labeled here). Not that you should, but you can.

Each chapter is followed with a link to the author’s presentation at the conference and a link to an interview with the author. These are also QR codes to link these and a few other videos—I have not attempted to access these videos. My consideration has been the book and the book only. The chapters also conclude with study questions. The compilers rightly see that individual continued study is critical going forward.

The various chapters take a slice of the issues of eschatology and Israel and focus on that slice. I say both eschatology and Israel because the two are inseparable: one’s view of the way in which God will conclude the affairs of humanity must include how God addresses His chosen people, the Israelites.

I will refrain from judging an entire eschatological system here. That’s what book-length works are for, not short-form amateur reviews. I will state that I came to this book not as convinced of the system present here than the authors. That is, if you would have quizzed me about “Israel and the Jewish people in the plan of God,” I would have stammered something about a cake in the oven and left.

Bock, Glaser, et. al. have a better grasp and a firmer opinion on the matter. They are effective in communicating what their ideas are here, and focus on the proactive statement of the case rather than destroying other views.

For me, that is refreshing in a theological book. Especially one treating as delicate a topic as this, where one starts with raw nerves and goes downhill from there. The editors are to be commended for keeping it on the rails.

I cannot let pass the unfortunate use of endnotes in this book, which separates some excellent explanations from the phrases they belong to by over 300 pages. That’s not on the editors, but it does detract from the use of this book.

I would count this a valuable book in seeing how Scripture speaks to Israel and its future, including how the land of Israel is included—and how that all ties together with the rest of the world to come.

I received this book free from the publishers, Kregel Academic. They publish some lovely things, and also publish the Phillips Commentary Series. One time, they even sent me a coffee mug. I cannot be bought with a coffee mug, though. You have to fill it up.

More than a Check: Deuteronomy 14

In Summary: Moses carries forward to the list of clean and unclean animals in Deuteronomy 14. This list matters for two purposes. First, the people were not to eat the unclean. Second, they were not to sacrifice the unclean. Studies abound about why certain animals were listed by God as unclean. These range from serious, like the view that pig was forbidden for disease fears, to a little silly, like the view that pork is so delicious it was a risk for idolatry. (Somebody call the Bacon Coalition!)

I find two things worth noting on this list. First is that God provided a specific list, then a qualification list. That allowed the people to deal with any animal that didn't fit the list. Second is that acceptable animals required either attentive care (cattle-types) or hunting effort.

The clean/unclean list follows an instruction to avoid cutting oneself or shaving one’s forehead for the sake of the dead. Guess what? We don’t know exactly what that meant. I would assure you that any idolatrous practice is forbidden, but it is likely broader than that. Perhaps the idea of self-mutilation in memory of another is in view. In all, I think the purpose is that the Israelites were God’s people and should act like it, even in grief.


In Focus: Coming to the end of the chapter, we see commands related to the tithe. This is a touchy subject these days, as some hold that the tithe is an absolutely binding law on the church and others that it is absolutely not. Let us first examine this in context.

First, the tithe is 10%. That’s what the word means, tenth. Suggesting that a tithe was anything else is nonsense. However, there was more than one tithe—so the cost of fulfilling all “tithes” was more than 10%.

Second, the tithe is agricultural. One should note, however, that everyone had an agricultural allotment, so everyone had agriculture to tithe from.

Third, the tithe could be converted from produce/agriculture to money, and then brought in to the worship center.

Fourth, the tithe was to be used for the purpose of worship and fellowship. The Levites were to be “remembered” in the process.

Fifth, every three years a tithe was to be collected and kept in town rather than shipped out. It was to feed the Levites, the widows, the orphans, and the aliens. (ALIENS AGAIN!!)

One thing on this triennial tithe: I’m not as awesome on the grammar as most commentators, but I am almost seeing this as a replacement for the tithe above. That is, 2 years you take it to the center point, then the third year you keep it local. I’m not convinced it’s an additional tithe.

One other thing to remember: the setup of Deuteronomy was for a nation governed through religious practice. Tithes and taxes were aligned. There was nothing done that didn't either come from freewill giving or mandatory sacrifices and tithes.

In Practice: What do we do with this?

We admit that principles for an agricultural economy have to migrate to a monetary one. That tithes were in produce then does not mean that only farmers tithe now—it was about the income from work.

Do we tithe today?

First, no. Because we see God as owning everything, we do not bring Him a tenth and call it good.

Second, yes. Because we see God as owning everything and we ought to bring in worship, showing our respect and commitment to Him.

Nice and confused, right?

Here is the reality as I see it: we are not under the Law. The Law was fulfilled in Christ, so we are not trying to keep it. But we do learn about God through it. We can see that trusting God to make whole what we give away benefits us, spiritually.

We can see that we have responsibilities to provide for those in need and those that teach, and those responsibilities are part of our worshipful life before God. We can also see that the “firstfruits” ought to come. What are the firsts? Some say the best, some say the chronological firsts. I think it’s both—that we keep not the best, and that we trust God by giving among the first of what we receive.

Does that mean we are cursed if our first check is not 10% to a local church? Of course we’re not. That’s nonsense—the blood of Christ frees us from the curse.

But we are not learning faith if we give based on what we think we can afford instead of trusting in God. How that hits you may be different, but it should remain true that you seek to give more and more rather than less and less.

Does it all go to the local church? No—but if your local church is not clearly a major part of how you are involved in God’s kingdom, why are you there? If you are not learning the Word and helping widows, orphans, and aliens (ALIENS!!!) through your church, what is it doing?

And look at the other concepts: to gather and celebrate God’s grace? That should be the church as well. The giving of believers should be about living out what we see the ways of God commend to us. If your local church isn’t worthy of your giving, you should examine Scripture. Somebody’s wrong, either you or the church. It could be either one.

In Nerdiness: Shortly: is there something to animals being clean that take effort to keep? Pigs, for example, easy to keep—they eat anything.


Other types of cattle, sheep, etc.? Hard to keep. You learn shepherding and care from them. Is that part of how God determined clean from unclean?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Speech?

A major concern rises from Houston, Texas, right now. As part of a fight that began with expanding civil rights laws to address gender/sexual identity issues, the Mayor of Houston, with the City Attorney, have subpoenaed not only the sermons of five area pastors but all of their communications about the Equal Rights Ordinance.

Now, first off, let me say that I’m not trying to dig into the yay/nay on that ordinance. Understanding what is happening around this law is what matters. First, the City Council passed a law. The City Charter allows petitioners to force any law (ordinance) passed by the Council on to the ballot to be decided by the voters. Because there were opinions that this law exceeded social norms that were acceptable, and seeing a threat in it, there was an area group that petitioned to drive that law onto the ballot. They submitted their petition.

The Mayor rejected it. If the activist group is right, the Mayor exceeded her authority in doing so. They therefore sued. In response, the Mayor has subpoenaed information not only from the people suing her, but from their pastors. This is where it gets interesting.

We must admit that when you sue someone, you open your life and actions to certain examinations that you are otherwise shielded from by a right to privacy. If I sue you for making me disabled, I have invited you to prove me wrong. There are limits to the fishing expedition, however, and it appears the case at hand crosses those.

Why?

Because some of those subpoenaed are not party to the case at hand. It would be akin to subpoenaing my sermons on genetically modified food crops when one of my church member farmers was part of the class-action against Bayer CropScience a few years back. It wasn’t my lawsuit, even if my preaching pushed him to join. (It didn’t, as I have never preached on GMOs.)

The Mayor defends her actions, though, by alleging that these pastors were involved in “political” speech, and that they cannot hide behind the 1st Amendment for that. There are a couple of problems with that.

First, what makes speech “political?” Assuming, for the moment, that there should be limits on political speech, what makes that content? Is gender identity political or moral? What about free association? Is it political to claim that marriage is defined by “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother cleave unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” just because there are political attempts to force the law to either respect or ignore that definition?

The dividing line between “political,” “religious,” and “moral” speech is a great fuzzy nonsense. Any time there is a governance process in view, then speech that seeks to affect it is political. This is whether you are John Bunyan preaching without government permission, Elijah Craig preaching for some to overthrow the government, or Martin Luther King, Jr., preaching to change the government. Or Elijah Mohammed doing the same, or Louis Farrakhan, or Al Gore, Jr., preaching in a worship service about global warming!

All laws are made through politics and based on moral principles. All of them—the law that says you can’t kill me? That’s based on morality and came to be law through politics. Does this make preaching against murder political? Or can I base it on Scripture and call it religious?

Trying to divide speech into hard categories like “political” and “religious” just does not work. Religious speech by necessity affects the behavior of its adherents throughout their everyday lives. One expects that a sermon commending love and patience will be seen throughout the week—if a riot broke out in Houston next week, and pastors urged calm from their congregations, are they preaching politics? Is it sinful?

I do not doubt that the city would welcome their aid in stopping the riot without bloodshed.

All of this shows why it is that churches and other religious organizations (mosques, synagogues, temples, reading rooms, etc…) must zealously guard the concept of free speech on all fronts. It’s nonsensical to expect religious teaching that does not drive action. Action in society always has moral and political implications.

Second, though, is the faulty assumption that the government has a right to police speech.

Take a quick look at the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  (from USConstitution.net)

Quick, what does it say about limits of speech? None. Now, logical people have noted reasonable limits such as the classic “Fire!” shout in a crowd. That’s right: there is no governmental right to repress speech that is not immediately dangerous to others. If we were dealing with preaching (be it Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) that was stirring up an immediate riot, then there would be grounds to shut it down.

We are looking at sermons and meetings done to organize a petition to the government…which also appears in the 1st Amendment. In fact, it looks like the only thing 1st Amendment not in view here is the press. But Houston seems to have a problem with religion and its exercise; with speech; with assembling people to talk about politics; and petitioning the government.

Governor Hutchinson would be proud.

PS: if you want my sermons, they’re online.

Book: The Sacred Year

I am doing some desk-clearing, and have a couple of books to review this week. Thanks for your patience.

<-See? It’s a book.

I must admit, I don’t quite know what to do with Michael Yankoski’s The Sacred Year. It was not quite what I expected—I think I misread the description to indicate more of a look at the cyclical calendar of Christian observances, rather than one person’s journey through a year of digging deeper. From that point forward, I was less enthusiastic. I’ve never heard of Michael Yankoski, and one reason I seek out books to review is to learn from voices I would normally not hear.

Yankoski has given the reader a good look at a year in which he walked away from high pressure life and pursued clearer spiritual devotions. During the course of this year, he followed many of the ancient practices of Christianity, including taking time to bake his own bread to consider “daily bread” more deeply. I know that some of my more serious brethren will have great difficulties with the spiritualist nature of the disciplines.

I personally find the practice of many of the classic spiritual disciplines refreshing. I am more disturbed to read Yankoski’s confession of rising to Christian influence while apparently knowing very little of such practices as stillness and patience. That is not a fault with this book, but rather with the Western Christian Corporation. That’s another rabbit hole, entirely.

It is pleasant to read of someone moving away from the chaos-chase of Western mentality to draw nearer to God, but the division between my expectations and the reality sums up my difficulties with this book. Yankoski presents a sacred year which he was able to pursue. He had the means, the contacts, and the education to connect him with various guides and teachers for this journey.

Unlike the vast majority of Christians. The single mother working two jobs to feed her children can only hope to make a weekly church service to feed her faith, she has very little opportunity to take off an entire year. Likewise, is it responsible to burn candles and firewood in place of seeking more efficient energy? Perhaps using the same power to feed an extra family, rather than highlighting your own situation.

That is where The Sacred Year breaks down for me. Despite the chapters on “depth with others,” it is still a book that highlights Western Solo Christianity. It is about the experiences of here and there, chasing this and that, which if you can’t have, you can’t quite get as deep. But at least you can read about someone who did.

I would rather have seen an examination of a year lived in stable community with the people of God. What is it like to walk through all the seasons of life with the same folks, sharing their days and moments? That is the sacred year of community.

It’s not a bad book. It’s a great book about a spiritual experience that I do not find worth commending to you.

Free book received from BookLook Bloggers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book: Jonathan Edwards

Today’s Book is brought to you by Reformation Heritage Books through Cross-Focused Reviews.

Image 1

It’s a book! With a kid, looking at a spider…creepy.

Simonetta Carr’s books take up six spaces on the shelves here at our house. We’re slowly acquiring all of the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series, so when I was offered a review copy of Jonathan Edwards, I snagged it. Yes, I come with a bias toward this series. I have liked all the volumes, and would be surprised to not like this one.

I was not surprised. Jonathan Edwards presents a rounded picture of Edwards, giving him a human face instead of just an angry preacher face. If anything, this work comes out just shy of making Edwards out as too nice. Brevity is part of the series, though, so one cannot expect all of the details of Edwards’ life to be presented. Further, the goal is to present people that can be looked up to, and Edwards certainly fits that category.

The writing style is smooth. Carr does not use excessively long sentences, nor does she use words that are outside of the vocabulary of most middle school students. This is a remarkable achievement in writing about one of America’s foremost theologians, but she brings it to bear smoothly.

While above I note that Edwards is presented nicely, difficulty is not avoided in this biography. The matters of war, disease, and tragedy are dealt with plainly. David Brainerd’s life and death, and Edwards’ daughter Jerusha’s death that followed, are discussed. So, too, is the dismissal of Edwards from Northampton Church.

All told, the text alone is a valuable introduction to Edwards’ life. Adding the full color pictures—already on a light tan page background—and the book comes alive. Matt Abraxas has illustrated the work well, and the photos of locations and artifacts supplement his artwork well. Tom Carroll’s maps bring the locations into focus, and the combined product is worth putting on the shelf.

This is a sturdy hardcover, with stronger-than-average pages. Think magazine-type glossy, but the strength of a magazine cover without being quite as heavy. You will get your money’s worth, as you will have a book that lasts.

And you’ll learn things about Edwards you never knew…like his interest in science, or that he was reading Isaac Newton’s works almost as soon as they came out. That’s right, Newton was older and working in England at the same time Edwards was a student in college. I never put that together until reading this book.

I heartily recommend this as an introduction to Jonathan Edwards.

I did, indeed, receive a review copy in exchange for this review. Had I bought it, I would hold the same opinion but never would have gotten around to sharing it.

In the Grainfields: Luke 6

In Summary: This chapter deals with the disciples and their snacking on the Sabbath; the calling of the Twelve; and the “Sermon on the Plain.” This latter section is generally seen as a parallel with the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7, and there are advocates that the record is of the same message. That is unnecessary. If Jesus is traveling and preaching, He likely preaches to different crowds at different times and so presents the same general teaching in diverse places.

The Twelve are called from among the disciples that are already following Jesus. We see Jesus call out twelve specific individuals after a night of prayer, and label these as “apostles.” Typically, these are now “The Twelve” or “The Apostles,” with capital letters signifying the group. The list ends, as each Gospel’s list does, with the name of Judas and his label as a traitor. This is an evidence of writing in retrospect. It also serves to clue the reader in to the various actions of Judas and his motivations.

More than, though, it makes clear from the outset: Jesus was not surprised by Judas’ inevitable betrayal. It may have seemed sudden, but it was known from the foundation of the world. No surprise there.

In Focus: We place the grainfields on the Sabbath in focus. The disciples are passing by a field of mature grain and pick a little bit to eat as they pass by. This was permissible under the Law (Deuteronomy 23:24-25), and hardly surprising for a world without a lot of grocers on hand. The disciples do what is necessary by hand-threshing the grain so they can eat it.

Enter the Pharisees. Or at least some of the Pharisees. It is a violation of the Law as they see it to thresh grain on the Sabbath. How can Jesus permit this transgression? And then Luke follows this with a story from “another Sabbath day,” when Jesus dares to heal someone on the Sabbath! The Pharisees become even more indignant. Eating is one thing, but healing? What will come of this?

Jesus calmly points out to the Pharisees that doing good on the Sabbath is acceptable, and that doing what is necessary is also within the bounds of His commands. After all, He is the Lord, even on the Sabbath! (Luke 6:5)

In Practice: In practice, let us note three things:

1. There are always Pharisees, and they show up when the rules get nudged. Now, admittedly there are rules which are necessary! No matter the financial need, one does not take up the offering at gunpoint. That’s not Pharisee, that’s godly. But sometimes we have rules and regulations that are helpful in general. However, to honor the spirit of the rules, sometimes the letter must be broken. It is not in the spirit of a day of worship and honoring the Lord to leave a man unhealed who could be healed. And it is not in the spirit of God’s law commending compassion to travelers to let them pluck grain…but not eat it.

2. There are always needs. Personal needs and community needs will always surround us. Though we need to keep on working, we also need to take time to rest. It may be that we need other times—note that Jesus takes time to pray before picking the Apostles—because one day is consumed with work for the Lord. That is the key, though, more than a calendar watch. Does the Lord have all your days?

3. There is always Jesus. We cannot separate out a day from Him, nor allot Him only one day. That is frequently our danger, that we would allocate Sunday as “The Lord’s Day,” and then claim Monday-Saturday for us. Especially Saturdays in the South, because football holds that day. No day is absent His lordship. Do not deceive yourself into thinking so.

Beyond that, we see the need to grow in our relationship with Him, for as the chapter finishes, why call Him “Lord” and not do what He says?

In Nerdiness: Compare your lists of Apostles: Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Acts 1:13; Luke 6:14-16.

They are not the same. What do we do with that?

First, look at similarities. Second, look at near similarities. Simon the Zealot in Luke is simply Simon the Cananaean in Mark and Matthew. What’s the difference? One is a Greek term for the political group out to get rid of Herod…the other the Aramaic.

Third, look at the differences. Are these possibly multiple named people? Judas, son of James, may be Thaddaeus. Why? Because who else wants to be Judas after the betrayal? Anyone out there in America naming kids Benedict Arnold yet? Not likely.


Before these are dismissed as errors or disagreements, look at the cultural concepts of name lists. Most difficulties resolve themselves.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sermon Recap for October 12

Good Morning! Here is the Sermon Recap from October 12.

Both sermons looked at Matthew 6, examining forgiveness and the Lord’s Prayer.

Morning Sermon: Matthew 6 (audio here)

October 12 AM: Matthew 6 from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Evening Sermon: Matthew 6 Extended (audio here)

October 12 PM: Matthew 6 from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.

Concluding Notes:

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

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

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

A. iTunes for audio subscription link is here.

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

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

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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

Outlines:

Morning:

Here’s the basic version of the story used in the morning:

Today, if you would hear it, I would tell you a story. It is a story from a kingdom of old, from a time perhaps long ago, but not so long as you might think.

There was, in this time, a great kingdom. The king was gracious and wise, and his will was good. He had reigned since before the stars were known to shine, and there was no apparent ending to come of his time upon the throne.

No one truly knew the king, though he had messengers who went out upon his errands. None knew him, that is, save his son. At least, that was all that anyone knew. The king ruled from a throne set among a council of three, though none dared appeal to one seat or another, so tightly was the unity among them.

Since time immemorial the king had ruled, though few wanted to acknowledge his rule. He maintained the roads, saw to it that many of the fields and herds were cared for, and showed benevolence that only a truly great king could show. Still and all, his subjects rarely acknowledged him.

The king was not unaware of the rebellion. He had known it, not only before it happened but before he had brought people forth to populate his kingdom. His messengers had, perhaps, wondered at why he would do this. In fact, some of his own servants had taken their responsibility of working the king’s errands and bent it to the point of dragging the king’s subjects away from his ways and into following their own.

The king had his representatives throughout the kingdom, some gathered tightly into one group, but all working to spread the fame and obedience to the true king throughout the realms. These representatives had difficulty, though, as the nature of men is to sometime strive with one another as much as with itself.

In anticipation of this, there were rules and teachings intended to train the people to follow after the king’s ways. He was just and truthful, so the people were commanded to be like him. They stumbled often, for even on the best of days perfection was unattainable.

Further, the king was known for the perfection not merely of action but of desire and thought. None of his subjects could match his decrees and many gave over to the enemy in despair, following those who had become derelict of duty joyfully.

This was also not lost on the king, who purposed that the rebellion would end, and that his rule would be known. His justice would be known as it should be, righteous and pure, and no longer feared but blessed.

To this end, he sent first heralds to proclaim the plan. It was no different than it had ever been, but it was different than the people had understood. Nevertheless, his heralds proclaimed the coming events, their truth attested by the king’s provision of other information about the kingdom at the same time.

All the while, the king had a feast prepared for his people. It was not the stuff they were accustomed to, for his fare would satisfy all their wants as well as their needs. It remained only for the people to come.

They could not come, though, as they were. The feast was to be held in the presence of the king, and the people could not come before him in their rebellion. The rebellion must end first.

At this point, the king executed the pinnacle stroke of his plan. Rather than rely on heralds or the vain hope that someone might blunder into his feasting hall, the king sent forth his son, the one who shared in the council of the kingdom, occupying one of the thrones of tri-unity. This son would go and bring in all the subjects of the kingdom.

In his travel to the people, though, he did not come unscathed from the lofty grandeur of the palace. First, he had to mask his magnificence, for the righteous justice of his place in the kingdom was too much for the people to behold. This was not all that he did, though.

The king’s justice required the lives of the rebels. The king sent his son to proclaim his grace to the people, for the two had formed a plan that would permit the rebels to lay down their rebellion and return to the king.

The rebels, though, fearing the identity of the son determined that the best course of action was to kill him. After all, if he were there to execute the king’s justice then they would face death themselves. And nobody wanted that.

But here they were caught unawares by the wisdom of the king and the compassion of the son. For in executing the one who was without fault, they added to their rebellion and yet allotted its payment as well. The king’s law required the lives of the rebels, but the son died in their place.

All was not done at this point, though, for the goal was not merely to remove the penalty of the rebels but to restore them to right fellowship with the king. To bring them back to where they belonged. To bring them to the feast of the king.

Those whom the son had called began the journey to the kingdom, learning to set aside their rebellions and walk in the son’s path, knowing it to be the way back to the king. As they passed throughout the land, they sent forth tidings of the king and his grace, his mercy, and his justice. They gathered all who would to join in the journey.

At times, some of those who gathered intentionally set out to the furthest expanse of the kingdom to find others who needed to join their travels. Many heard the message, though not all responded to it. Some remained deaf to the king’s command and call to his table, no matter what was done to persuade them.

Others? They came to walk the path for a time, but their heart never came alive to the king’s call and sometime later wandered away.

As they traveled, the people heard the words recounted of the grace of the king. Of the king’s efforts to bring them home, for the son had laid down a perfectly clear path, and to those whose eyes were no longer blinded by rebellion, they could see that not only the footprints of the son coming to them, but the ones leading them back to the king. They marveled at this, knowing that the words of the heralds had suggested the son would not remain in the grave and having heard from others that he had, indeed, overcome the penalty of rebellion to guide the path back.

There were obstacles along the way, and in the process the rebels who had been redeemed began to struggle in their steps. Not only did they struggle in their steps on the path, but it was not uncommon for them to bicker with each other.

First, there were those who were aghast at who else had joined in the journey. Old hurts from the fields they came from were not readily forgotten, and the people reheard the old debates perhaps too readily.

Second, there were debates about the right manner to follow the path. After many bitter grumps in the night, some of the travelers never spoke to each other again!

Others stumbled from the path and returned, but were treated badly by the ones who never left.

After all, they had not left the son’s footsteps! How could anyone depart and expect to come back without their fellow walkers exacting a price for their infidelity?

Upon arrival at the king’s table, though, the traveling party was surprised to find a few things.

First, they were pleasantly surprised to find the son of the king present, very much alive. They had believed it true, but here they saw him.

Second, and less pleasant, they found that the king had assigned seats to them all. Many found themselves assigned to sit beside the very ones they had shunned on the road, or commanded to aid those who they had wronged in the journey.

Many stood to argue, forgetting that they were in the presence of the king—and as they perceived his judgment about to fall on them, they saw the son lift up his hand, showing the scars of their own abuse on his body.

His hands showed not only the marks of their execution, but of the harms they had visited upon one another. His face showed the pain and grief of not only their betrayal, but of all the harm they had seen in their lives.

The king stood, and spoke very clearly to the people gathered:

Those who have truly understood what I have done for them, what my son has done, recognize that the harms they hold against one another pale in comparison. At each of your seats, you will find a list of the charges related to your rebellion.

You, of course, can do little but plead guilty. In fact, you already did.

But consider that I have allowed, through the price you exacted from my son, you to gather here at my table. Yet you dare to hold your neighbor’s offenses against him in this time?

Do you consider that wise? Is that the character you have learned from me?

You are welcome at my table, but you must acknowledge that so, too, are these. Even your enemies.

Footnote: There were some who had traveled that were not present at the great banquet. Along the way, their harms had become too much; he had set a table for them where they could heal before joining the larger party. The king’s grace had extended even to those who caused their harms, but his compassion did not require they face the source of their immense pain yet.

Evening:

     1. Prayer is about communication with God


     2. Public prayer should consider the hearers (John 11)


     3. The petitions matter:


          a. Identity of the one prayed to

          b. Surrender

               i. all of the request petitions of the Lord's prayer are subordinate to the concept of surrender to the will of God

               ii. It is about the embrace of His kingdom


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

     A. Dining Room (personal growth): How this nourishes us as believers: recognizing the greatness of a God who already knows

     B. Living Room (immediate life application): Prayer--fascinating that we get very social media worked up about praying with "in Jesus name" at the end, and yet Jesus did not teach us to do that!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Communion: A bit of a rant

As pastor of a church, I get all kinds of advertising targeted my way. Apparently, we have made such consumers of our churches that there is plenty of money to be made from us, but that’s for another day.

Specifically today I want to fume a bit about the subject line of an email that came through the SPAM filter. While I know, overall, what they were actually selling, the subject line was irritating. What was it?

“There is still time to save on Communion!”

Yep. After earlier emails about “Saving on Communion” and “Discount on Communion,” this one has pushed me to the rant level. Addressing the practical idea, first, though: there are no pre-packaged wafer/juice combos that are more financially beneficial than a large bottle of 100% juice (for us Baptists) and some homemade bread. Given that I haven’t seen any pre-packs that include wine (I haven’t looked, though), I don’t think the Presbyterians are looking to save a buck anyway.

This has me concerned about something else, though. I commented above about the spending ourselves into a consumer church culture, and the idea that the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, or the Eucharist, is something we have allowed to get wrapped into this.

Seriously? I can understand price-checking on the microphones and the batteries for them. For bulletin blanks or for paper towels, sure we should shop cheap.

But even down here in the Symbolic/Memorial Camp, never mind the folks in the Real Presence or Consubstantiation Camps, we should be coming to the Table of the Lord with “financial savings” so far from our minds that it does not even darken the door.

First of all, this is Communion we are talking about. Based on my reading of history, part of the first generation of Christians’ problem with society was cannibalism for participating in Communion. Since the bread and the cup were referred to as the Body and Blood of the Lord, those looking to take offense saw this as a great offense. Christians were eating people!

From that point forward, there have been people who have risked their lives to take the bread and the cup. LIVES. Are we actually worried about how well this fits into our budgets?

Second of all, this is Communion we are talking about. It is the reminder of our Lord and Savior and part of the heritage of Christians all the way back to before the Cross. BEFORE THE CROSS, PEOPLE! We do not know for certain that we would have kept baptizing had Jesus not commanded it after the resurrection, but we know He commanded the Supper that night!

What price is too high for the church to take part in this observance? Even for those of us who see it as ordinance and not sacrament? (Leaving that discussion aside, for now.)

Are we really sure that sitting in business session and saying, “Well, church that is all the redeemed of all the age, if we can get 10% more off, we’ll join you at the Lord’s Table.”? I doubt it. I know of no church, anywhere, that willfully ignores Christ’s command to take, eat, in remembrance of Him. None.

Third, and most importantly, this is Communion we are talking about. Jesus paid for this. With His body, broken for us, and His blood, poured out for us. The general fact that we can bring our sinful selves to His table should humble us to the point of not thinking of saving a buck.

It is the cost He paid for the Table that saved us!

That’s just my rant on this subject. We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper this Sunday at Almyra Baptist. We will invite all those who have publicly professed “Jesus is Lord” and been baptized to join us at the Lord’s Table. Not because we got a good deal on juice and crackers.

Because it is the opportunity for us to remember and participate not only with the body that is present, but the with body for all the ages, and with Him whose body was given for us.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Headed for Columbus Day

This weekend is Columbus Day weekend. Also known as “No, you can’t have any mail, or go to the bank because, well, something” weekend. It’s an interesting day.

First, you have various municipalities (Seattle made the news on it this year) declaring it “Indigenous People’s Day” because they feel Columbus was bad for the Indigenous People of the North American Continent. No word yet on when they plan on returning their municipalities completely to the aforementioned Indigenous People groups. Or why, given that anything in the US north of Florida was explored and occupied by the English and French who followed different routes than Columbus, they hold Columbus responsible.

For that matter, second, Columbus was not the first European in North America. In fact, he hit Caribbean islands. There were Norse in America 400 years before Columbus, and possibly Celts before them! Nobody seems to hate on Leif Erickson. Or think about the fact that history is, generally, the story of various tribes conquering other tribes and taking their land. All the dadgum time. Anybody still mad at William the Conqueror? Calling for the Roman Empire to get Gaul back? Nope.

Third, Columbus was not the only one to think the Earth was round. That’s a myth that needs killed dead. Most of those who refused to back his voyage did so because they knew the Earth was round. They also knew the Earth was big. Why? They had read Eratosthenes, the Greek who measured the circumference of the sphere of the Earth.

Around 240 BC.

1700 years before Columbus (240+1492=1732) set sail. Eratosthenes made some errors, like assuming the Earth a perfect sphere, but he established then that the Earth was round.
Columbus assumed that Eratosthenes was wrong on the size, and figured he could get to Asia. Those who wouldn’t front him the ships and cash? They knew it was really, really far…and figured he could not survive that long at sea.

So, Columbus Day is a holiday to celebrate a man who didn’t believe historical geography, who didn’t discover America, and who didn’t actually know where he was.

Which explains perfectly why it’s an American Federal Holiday. It describes our government to perfection. They don’t know where they are, how they got there, or what they’re doing.

It does not explain why it’s the same day as Canadian Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Signs and Wonders: Deuteronomy 13

In Summary: Signs and wonders, wonders and signs. What shall we do with them all? This question raises its head in the modern day, but it goes all the way back into Deuteronomy 13.

Actually, it goes back further, but there’s an important context to grasp here. God has shown His approval of Moses through signs and wonders. Further, these accompanied Aaron as High Priest and Joshua as successor to Moses.

But we also saw in the Exodus narrative that the magicians of Egypt were able to do some miraculous acts as well. What is the difference? After all, if God is all-powerful, then are not any signs and wonders an attestation to His approval?


In Focus: The people of Israel at this point in the story have seen a lot, but they are about to cross over into the Promised Land. The Word of God that Moses will give them holds the guidance for their society.

But what if someone comes along and pushes them to consider other gods? It is one thing, of course, for someone to spout obvious nonsense and have no power to back it up. That person will readily be ignored, and perhaps given a great deal of opportunity to change his ways.

The real threat is from the one who pops up and does a miracle or two, who nails a prophecy just right, and then says “See! God said we should pitch this Torah and party like it’s 1999!” (BC, in Mesopotamia). This threat will not be so easy to counter.

The test of this prophet, or dreamer, is to be whether or not his instructions pass the test of fidelity to the existing words of YHWH, the One True God. That is the pass/fail, even if this prophet calls the next eclipse, flood, or football result. He is a false prophet, not false in foretelling but false in truth telling, a far weightier matter. His power is being allowed by God, but he himself is not honoring God in his actions (See Balaam in Numbers or Caiaphas in John!)

The remainder of the chapter wraps up the results for both the false prophet and those who fall to his ideas. Execution. It is that simple, for a land with unified religion and state sees apostasy as treason.

In Practice:
For certain, this is not our appropriate response. We rightly and joyously live in a land with a separation between church and state, though there is much debate about how that fleshes out. Fortunately we do not see apostasy and treason lined up together in America. (I would add a “yet,” pending our complete shift to secularism as the official religion, but that would make me a ‘nutter’ in some views.)

Why do we not execute the false prophet merely on religious grounds? Because Jesus died for the false prophet as well as for you and I, and so we do not pursue death for spiritual sin. I would argue, but will not develop, that the Christian response to any sin is not execution, though the State may construct and command that response. That’s for another day.

Just because there is no execution for false prophecy does not mean there should be no consequences. Let us take the false prophets of today and consider their lives.

We enable their lives. We buy their books, watch their shows, attend their conferences. We even legitimize their falsehoods by inviting the false prophet to debate rather than rebuke.

What signs and wonders do we fall for?

Many of my Baptist brethren would argue that we do not fall for false healings or future-telling, as we are far smarter than our charismatic brethren who do fall for these. Yet we have our own signs and wonders that we fall for in the “practical” department.

After all, how long has it taken us to realize that the wonder of filling a church in an unchurched area does not mean a person is a qualified preacher? Much less qualified to inspire and draw followers across Baptist-land?

Or we fall for the sign of “he won the election,” be it the business meeting or the Annual Meeting, and say that we must follow. Even if the guidance is away from a trust in the Word of God, a commitment in following the Lord Jesus Christ.

This was the apostasy that Moses warned about in Deuteronomy 13. That the people who should serve the Lord are convinced to follow their feelings of inspiration instead of the inspired Word of God.

While we ought not execute the false prophet, we must stop enabling him as well. Just because he looks good and sounds good does not mean his preaching is not death. Stop buying the books. Stop going to the conferences, realizing that the “bathwater” is so toxic that no “baby” can survive it.

Whether a coalition or a network or even a convention endorses someone is not the test of their fidelity. Whether or not they sound good, or fill a room, or even if they prophesy accurately, it does not matter. The Word of God is the Word of God, and there is but one Mark, John, Luke, Paul, or Matthew who has written inspired Scripture.

Cut them off. Do it now, before it is too late.

In Nerdiness: Heavy enough without nerdiness, but here goes:

I have read a few times that the likely birth of many “religious” power groups has been the accurate foretelling of weather events. For example, nailing the rising of the Nile to flood stage or “blacking out the Sun” because a priest-wannabe knew the eclipse was coming.

In short, science. Being a step ahead in science but masking the process led to power over others. What do we do about that?


Learn science. Learn it well. And push for as much transparency as possible about not just the results, but the methods and models to get there.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book: Songs of a Suffering King

Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1–8 Book Cover<---It’s a book. Well, a picture of a book.

Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1-8 by J.V. Fesko takes those Psalms and examines their Christological concepts and unity. This is a small book, 124 pages in a 5x7 paperback. There are the expected intro/conclusion chapters and then one chapter for each Psalm.

Fesko first makes the case for the Psalms as an intentionally organized unit. His view is that the arrangement, including the order, of the Psalms is meant to tell a holistic story. This story foresees the Messiah, starting with Psalm 1.

From that point, Fesko examines the first 8 Psalms. He points out how they speak of Jesus, and each chapter is followed with discussion questions. These serve the reader well, reviewing material and driving application ideas.

It is important to note that Fesko’s work here is intended as devotional and not academic. To that end, some of his conclusions are not fully developed in the text. For example, his conclusion that the term “righteous” must only apply to Jesus is questionable in the Old Testament context. Given his scholarly work, I expect that Fesko has developed why this is the case, even with the references to Abraham or Job as “righteous.” A longer work with this information would be beneficial, though I understand that this is not the point.

An additional feature of each chapter is that the Psalm in view is presented at the end in metrical format. I am not musically versed enough to fully utilize the metrical information, but I can match it up with songs in the hymnal that I am familiar with. This is a great start toward utilizing the Psalms in worship.

Overall, I do not think that Fesko has presented the only possible way to understand these Psalms, but the idea he gives is excellent. Further, this work sparked my thinking. I find his take on Psalm 1 especially helpful, given that this Psalm presents a consistency of blessing that none of us see this side of the realized Kingdom.

In clarification, I’d like to have seen Fesko give a little more information on whether or not the “pick a collection” method of sorting Psalms is valuable or not. In the opening chapters, he specifically points out problems with not reading the Psalter as a straightforward collection, but in later chapters he points out which sub-collection some of the Psalms belong with. Again, this is likely a feature of the shorter length of the devotional treatment.

I have no qualms about suggesting this for a short-term Bible study if you need one. It allows a look at Jesus and the Psalms without ignoring the context of the latter.

I did request and receive this book for review without cost to me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In a Hole in a Roof: Luke 5

In Summary: Luke 5 gives us a few quick hits:

1. We see the calling of the first disciples. This shows us Jesus as master of the fish of the sea…and Peter as cognizant of his own sinfulness.

2. We see the compassion of Jesus on the leper. 5:12 shows the leper express “if you are willing,” recognizing that Jesus has power. The leper simply wants to know His character.

3. We see the calling of a tax collector named Levi. Matthew gives us his other name as “Matthew,” and we see the connection. Why is it relevant? Tax collectors are societal outcasts, just as they were then. This shows us that Jesus accepted those who were outcast by convention as much as He did those outcast by their sin. He drew in those alienated from humanity and those alienated from God.

4. We see the disciples and Jesus feasting, rather than fasting. There is a time for both. Weep that Christ had to die for you, but celebrate that He is risen! He is risen indeed!

5. We see Jesus pointing out that times change, and once one gets over the shock, the new is seen as much better than the old.

In Focus: The center of the chapter is our focus for the day. Jesus is teaching. For once, it appears that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are listening to Him. Yet during this teaching time, some friends bring a paralyzed man to Jesus to be healed.

We do not see a clear reason why they could not bring the man through the crowd. Perhaps the crowd was being rude. Perhaps the crowd was just so focused on Jesus that they did not notice the men carrying the stretcher. Whatever the case may be, the men are blocked. They then neither hesitate nor evacuate, but go to the roof and get the paralyzed man in front of Jesus. Their compassion takes the shape of a hole in a roof.

From Jesus’ reaction, we see that He has no argument with their actions. In fact, Luke records that it is “their” faith that Jesus saw before healing the man. That ties together the belief of the paralytic and his friends. Jesus goes on to make a significant point about His authority to forgive sin, one of His claims to Godhood, and His ability to heal.


In Practice: Let us take a moment in practice, though, to think about compassion that takes the shape of a hole in a roof. Consider all those you know who have need, and then stretch it out further. Consider those who you have heard of, and those you see mentioned in passing in the wide, wide world.

The reality is that the way is blocked for many of the good things we would do to help those around us. We know, as Christians, that one thing everyone needs is their sins forgiven, and only Jesus can do that. Beyond that, whether their need is healing or resurrection or hope, it all comes from the same One who can forgive.

What are we willing to do to get folks into the presence of Jesus? How many times do we stop because there’s a crowd in the way? Maybe it’s the crowds at our churches that keep us happy, slowing our effort to reach a lost world. Maybe it is the crowd of the wider world that pretends an interest in Christ, all the while blocking the one or two who would truly respond.

Maybe it is our own lack of faith. We do not trust that He can. Maybe it is our lack of creativity.

Maybe it’s just an unwillingness to cut holes in roofs, for fear that someone will get upset that we kicked up dust. But I will tell you this: the need has never been greater that others hear the Word, have their sins forgiven, and their lives healed.

Get out the saws and chisels, folks, because the doors are blocked. It’s time to cut our way in.


In Nerdiness: First, of course, is a bit of architecture. Houses had flat roofs, so it was an easy access.

Second, consider what this meant for the friends who cut the hole. They had to fix it.


Third, consider that the access-blocking crowd probably had their sermon time interrupted. Are we okay with that?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sermon Recap for October 5

Good morning! Here are the sermons from Sunday, October 5, at Almyra Baptist Church. Next week, I should return to the more expanded outlines.


Morning Sermon: Temptation

Luke 4:1-13

I. The First Temptation: Self-pity

II. The Second Temptation: Self-determination

III. The Third Temptation: Self-centering Scripture

Evening Sermon: The Sabbath

Mark 2:23-28

1. Acknowledge shift from Sabbath to Lord's Day


2. Purposes--serving the Lord, worship, renewal



October 5 PM from Doug Hibbard on Vimeo.


Concluding Notes:
1. I do have the rough audio of Sunday Night’s Q&A session, but I’m not sure yet that it’s useful for posting.
2. I am not sure how to improve video quality with the current equipment.
3. If you want to subscribe, here’s a list:
A. iTunes for audio subscription link is here.
B. General Audio RSS feed for other programs is here.
C. If you’re a Stitcher User, the link is here
D. For Vimeo Video, subscribe to this channel: https://vimeo.com/channels/almyrafbc
E. For Youtube Video, subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/user/dheagle93/

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

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2014

In the last five years, a trend has risen of pastors deliberately poking the IRS bear. This trend began with Alliance Defending Freedom offering free legal aid to any church threatened by the IRS over their action, so more and more are taking ADF up on the offer. First, perhaps some background.

Going back to the 1950s, the law in the United States establishing income tax regulations and exemptions for non-profits has had a section, called the Johnson Amendment, that requires non-profits to avoid direct political participation. This was intended to prevent religious groups from using their tax-exempt status to politically fundraise without having to deal with election law. It was also authored by a Senator who had just barely won re-election and had been consistently called out for sinful and unethical behavior by churches and pastors in his home state. Lyndon Johnson, upon his return to the Senate, then made sure the tax laws prohibited churches and pastors from directly attacking him again.

Now it’s the established law. Oddly enough, the IRS has had more trouble from the atheist activist groups over non-enforcement of this on churches (and other religious groups) than the IRS has spent effort in enforcing it. That I am aware of, there has only been one application of the Johnson Amendment in recent years, and that was a one-year denial of tax-exemption for a church. It has been a paper tiger—atheist activists want it de-papered. They want churches investigated. Oddly enough, the ADF folks want the same thing.

Both groups want the IRS to come down on churches for political campaign involvement. Atheist groups want to make sure it stops, and the ADF wants a case they can take to the Supreme Court, believing that the IRS, and the Federal Government in general, has no grounds to muzzle the speech of churches and religious organizations. Their position is that a church (or religious group) is tax-exempt by nature and that the First Amendment protects our right to say whatever we want, so the Johnson Amendment needs to go.

The ADF just wants to find pastors who are willing to preach directly on politics and dare the IRS to sanction them. The IRS has not played ball for the past several years, simply letting it slip (apparently, they’ve been busy losing emails and audit-targeting conservatives) and hoping the issue goes away. Atheist activists have noticed, though, and have sued the IRS to force them to enforce the Johnson Amendment.

The IRS has promised to do more about enforcement, even allowing a few activist groups to give them information about where it needs enforced. I triple-dog-dare a few of them to make sure their list includes as many liberal non-churches and Muslim mosques as it does Christian churches and Jewish synagogues. I digress.

Enter the publicity for Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2014, slated for October 5. And enter the question: “Doug, are you going to preach on politics this Sunday?” (Yes, real question from several real people.)

The answer?

I preach on politics every Sunday.

Because I preach the Word of Almighty God. The Word of God transforms us, as Jesus works through His Word in the Bible to conform us. And that should have a major impact on our politics.

Now, am I dodging the question? Will I endorse a candidate from the pulpit?

I will not endorse a candidate while preaching a sermon. Not at all this year, and not likely ever.

Why?

I am vehemently pro-life. In fact, if you are reading this blog and considering an abortion, I urge you to reconsider. And to use the contact info to send me an email. We will rearrange this house and you can live with us until you have your child, and if you still don’t want that baby, we’ll take her/him and raise her/him as one of our own. And I preach that—and our church does what we can through groups like the Hope Women’s Center to help out.

I am strongly pro-freedom, including the right to be prepared to defend freedom from all enemies, foreign and domestic. I have preached before on the need for righteous treatment of the stranger and alien (one comes from other countries..the other comes from ? ) I have preached and will preach on dozens of other issues.

But to pick a candidate? Let’s examine that:

For Governor of Arkansas, we have the choice between Mike Ross, career politician (by now, honestly) and Asa Hutchinson, career politician. Both have records that include good votes and bad votes, party-line behavior and independent-minded behavior. Because Governor Mike Beebe has behaved in this campaign as if he has the right to anoint Mike Ross his successor, I find Hutchinson less onerous than Ross. As much as a stick in the eye to the sitting politician who thinks dynastically as any other reason.

For Senator from Arkansas, we have the choice between Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton. One has a long record, filled with cronyism and party adherence. The other has a short record that he hasn’t had time to fill with cronyism. Cotton I find less onerous because he’s not the incumbent—and Pryor’s votes to confirm certain people have been pretty awful.

Should I take the message time of a worship gathering of God’s people and proclaim that “Thus sayeth the Lord: vote for this guy who is less onerous than the other one.” ?

I think not. I am not afraid to tell you here who I will vote for, and may develop other reasons to explain them. (Who isn’t my point here.) I am not afraid to say in discussions around church my political leanings.

But the pulpit?

You see, I do not believe I have freedom from the pulpit to proclaim that God has commanded certain candidates. It is not the IRS that I fear when I step up there—I’ll gladly point out that taxation through confusion and compulsion is wicked—it is the Lord God Almighty.

Should I take the opportunity, rare that it is, to speak to the flock about the Word of God and give them something that is not there? True, the fact that many Christians give 1/336 of their week to learning the Word of God is a major discipleship problem, but will I solve that by endorsing Leslie Rutledge for Attorney General of Arkansas?

Not likely.

Will I address someone’s greedy by endorsing a candidate or proclaiming what the Word of the Lord says about wealth? Should I preach for a legal minimum wage hike or for the employers in my hearing to do righteously for their workers because it is right in the eyes of the Lord?

Will I fix broken homes by endorsing candidates? Stop drug problems by recommending legislation?

I believe that the Word of God is the right solution—not the platforms of either major party in this country.

My freedom to preach is limited, but not by the IRS. It is limited to preaching those plain truths of the Word of God, to working to make disciples. Do I think that being a disciple informs how we vote?

Absolutely. But woe be unto me if I tell someone that voting for a candidate makes them a disciple.

For I am constrained to proclaim the Word of God from the pulpit.

I have that freedom in this nation by the grace of God and the sacrifices of millions, and I will not disgrace either by using it for anything less than proclaiming God’s glorious truth.

Worship Service Recaps for May 17

We’ve done another week of worship-via-Internet-connectivity. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this to be over. That covers Sunday ...