Monday, December 28, 2015

Sermon Recap for December 27

Morning sermon recap:

Matthew 2 (Audio here)

Wisdom for the next step

  1. Start with worship
  2. Follow with listening to the Word of God
  3. Do not retrace the errors of old
  4. Avoid entanglements with bloodthirsty tyrants
  5. Carry the Word into your world!

 

Christmas Eve Service Video:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sermon Recap for December 20

Well, we just had one sermon on Sunday. The evening, some of our choir members particiapted with the East Union Choir Special. With Music Minister Ed Skains out after his heart surgery and me in Monroe with my mother before her surgery, we trusted the choir to handle it. I’m told they did quite well.

Morning Sermon: Messiah from Isaiah 9:6-7 (audio)

December 20 AM: Messiah Isaiah 7:14/9:6

Text: Isaiah 9:6-7

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Date & Place:

December 20 AM EEBCAR

Title: He Shall Reign!

Primary Theological Point: What should we learn? 

(BEDE)! Surely the entire divinely arranged plan of our Redeemer’s [coming] in the flesh is the reconciliation of the world—it was for this purpose that he became incarnate, for this he suffered, for this he was raised from the dead—that he might lead us, who had incurred God’s anger by sinning, back to God’s peace by his act of reconciliation. 

By his deeds and his teaching he moved sinners, so that he would be killed—he who, by his bodily death, was able not only to heal those who were ailing spiritually but also to bring the dead back to life.

A Light for All People. Bede: “Which will be to all people,” not to all the people of the Jews, nor to all the people of the nations, but to all the people who, either from the Jews or from the nations of the whole world, are brought together in one flock to one confession of Christ. From one and the same partaking of the mysteries of Christ they are called “Christian.” …

The light of life rose for those of us dwelling in the region of the shadow of death. Homilies on the Gospels 1.6.1

1 Steven A. McKinion, ed., Isaiah 1-39 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 72-5

Chrysostom: Listen to how Isaiah predicted this long beforehand when he said, “and his name shall be called Messenger of Great Counsel, Wonderful Counselor, God the Strong, the Mighty One, the Prince of peace, Father of the world to come.”

No one could say this of a mere man, as is obvious even to those who are very eager to show how stubborn they can be. No man from the beginning of time has been called God the Mighty or Father of the world to come or the Prince of peace. For Isaiah said, “There is no end of his peace.” And what did happen makes it clear that this peace has spread over the whole earth and sea, over the world where people dwell and where no one lives, over mountains, woodlands and hills, starting from that day on which he was going to leave his disciples and said to them, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”

Why did Christ speak in this way? Because the peace which comes from a human being is easily destroyed and subject to many changes. But Christ’s peace is strong, unshaken, firm, fixed, steadfast, immune to death and unending. Demonstration Against the Pagans 2.8–10. 1

1 Steven A. McKinion, ed., Isaiah 1-39 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 76.

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Primary Practical Point: What should we do? Be reconciled, first to God and then to others.//

Take Home Action (spread the Kingdom): Find one person to deliberately show the love of Christ to....and meanwhile, stop stressing about the "war on Christmas" and realize that the Kingdom has never lost a war, and never will.

I. Darkness abounds

II. Promise of Great Light

Christmas is about the Promiser, the Promised One, and the Promise of redemption.

Also, here’s the special music from the day. With appropriate credit to Chris Tomlin for it.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hibbard Christmas Letter 2015

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Merry Christmas from the HibbardFive! We thought we’d give a nice, wordy update on the year that has passed, but it’s been a chaotic year, so we’ll hit the highlights. First, the family overall: in May, we relocated to East End, Arkansas, where Doug now serves as pastor of East End Baptist Church. That led to a series of goodbyes and hellos that are still working through our system.

We continue to teach our children at home, even as Olivia has started 9th grade. She’s adjusting to the heavier workload well. Angela and Steven are working through the middle school and elementary years well. The girls are now in an American Heritage Girls troop in Benton, and Steven has moved up to the Webelos level of Cub Scouts as well as changing packs from Stuttgart. They are working together to learnclip_image004 piano and beginning to try out new instruments. So far, we have a bugle, a violin, and drums. It’s a bit noisy at times. We also toured the vault at the Arkansas State Capitol, and the kids got to hold $325,000!

Doug is learning the ins and outs of pastoring our new congregation in a much more highly populated area! He is currently focusing on the balance between pastoring and working through some writing projects while praying through future education prospects.

Fortunately, the move did not interfere with Ann’s work as Senior Editor for HEDUA. Since she telecommutes, the slightly better Internet speeds here in town have helped her out. She continues to be the main teacher for Olivia, Angela, and Steven.

We put the kids up to writing their own paragraph for this letter, so here they are:

Olivia: This year has been a strange one for our family. At the beginning of June, we moved from our little town of Almyra to the outskirts of Little Rock. That has required some adjustment, but we enjoy our new life. I now have a youth group that ranges from ten to twenty, and we have regular activities. That has also been something to adjust to. And there was the busyness. In July (at least I’m pretty sure it was July), I went to PraiseWorks one week, my grandmother’s the next, and Camp Paron the week after that! We have joined an AHG troop, and have been involved in several service projects because of that. But it has been a fun year, and I am glad for where we are.

Angela: I have been learning how to quilt and sew, and started working on following a pattern in knitting. The stuffed cow collection has grown, and all the cows do weird things together. This was my third year to do a music camp called Joy Works, at Ouachita Baptist University and we have also been working with piano. I have been in that weird stage of not little, but not a teenager yet. But the year has been fun.

Steven: Title: My Year. My year has been a lot of fun. This year I am experiencing Christmas in a new house. This year I have been growing, learning, getting, giving, playing, moving, and snuggling. This year I am looking forward to making new friends and having Christmas in a new house.

We Hibbards wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. May you walk closer to Jesus every day.

Doug, Ann, OIivia, Angela, Steven, Smoky, Mina

Friday, December 18, 2015

Book: God’s Unwelcome Recovery

Another book? Yes, another book. I’m always up for reading and reviewing books. In truth, there should be more of this in the year to come than there is now, and on a more regular schedule.

Today’s book comes from Monarch Books. It was provided free for review, something that has been true of book reviews for decades but apparently only becomes important when someone reviews free books for free. You never saw the New York Times have to highlight that their book reviewers got books for free…

Moving on from that rant, let’s hit another rant. It’s the “Christianity (and religion) are dying….oh, wait, maybe not” rant. Instead of reading me blog the rant, though, I would encourage you read Sean Oliver-Dee’s God’s Unwelcome Recovery and see a book-length response to that claim. Here’s the long and short of it, as found in his book.

Image(2)[4]First, yes, statistically speaking, there are church attendance/measurement metrics that show decline. This is only applicable, though, if we assume that churches should be measured like football clubs and businesses. Fewer people, fewer dollars, must be fading, right? Not automatically.

Second, there are political and social reasons why those not in church want to trumpet the decline of the church. (On this note, while I agree we must be honest about ourselves, perhaps our own statisticians and denominational vice presidents could stop giving ammunition to the critics of the church.) This is the bulk of the book: why the establishment wants to play down the church, and therefore why governing officials should not listen to Christian teaching or ideas. Further, why those ideas should be avoided, as the decline in churches is evidence that these are toxic ideas.

Third, Oliver-Dee demonstrates that the evidence is not solid that Christian religious belief is actually fading. Nominal Christianity that is Sunday only? Perhaps. Old-line, mainstream? Maybe. But the church as the vibrant expression of Christian faith that is the body of Christ, the Church, is not.

While God’s Unwelcome Recovery is focused on the church in the United Kingdom, there is valuable wisdom here for church leaders anywhere. I’d recommend it for church leaders and analyzers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sermon Recap for December 13

Well, look who is late posting the sermon recap blog post. It's a bit underdone, like a potato that hasn't had time to finish baking. Anyway, here's Sunday morning's sermon.

Also, please keep Bro. Ed Skains, our music minister, in your prayers. He's having bypass surgery this week. 

Morning sermon was focused on Jesus as the Sacrifice for our sins. I used the text from Genesis 22 to reflect on the joy connected with knowing that God provided the sacrifice, not us. There is nothing wrong with the lighting, by the way. I did preach in the dark, with two strings of Christmas lights rolled out down the side aisles.


December 13: Myrrh, for the Sacrifice: Genesis 22 (Audio)


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The NLT Illustrated Study Bible from Tyndale



Why do we need another study-format Bible? Is there really a need for a new Bible on the shelf? Honestly, these are valid questions. If you already have a half-dozen, then you probably should walk away from this post and go read one of the Bibles you already own. If you find yourself in need of a new Bible, though, let me highlight one of the newer ones on the market.


The New Living Translation (NLT) IllustratedStudy Bible is a new release from Tyndale Publishers. It’s available in hardcover, leather, imitation letter, and someday probably in digital. Mine’s a hardcover, which causes it to weigh in at about five pounds. That’s enough to hurt your foot if you’re not careful!

First, let’s take a look at the translation. The NLT was published in 1996 as an update to the Living Bible, with an effort to improve the accuracy of the translation while maintaining the easy reading style of the original. There have been some updates and revisions, including one this year (2015). Overall, the translation is generally reliable. I have a few reservations about the NLT; for example, if you don’t want to use “brothers” for “adelphoi”, my preference would be “fellow believers” (See Colossians 1:2). That captures what we tend to think Paul meant without adding a word that isn’t there. That’s the most glaring, but overall it’s a good translation.

On to the study notes. As always, one must remember that the study notes are the words of men placed beside the Word of God. For the most part, the NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes lean toward factual items, but have some interpretative and application notes. In other words, most notes give the reader background on the verse or a linking to historical events that make it easier to dig out the meaning. Some notes give a fairly direct message, while others provide a definite fulfillment to a prophecy. (Jeremiah 51:20 is an example of this last.)

In these notes, the editors and authors strive for balance among the major Christian views without taking sides. This makes some notes (like those in Revelation) a bit long, but keeps the Bible from falling into a niche too small to have value. There’s nothing extraordinary about these study notes, not particularly amazing or bad. Good, solid, and helpful just as I expected from Tyndale.        

The verse-linked study notes are not the only study feature. It is in the larger study profiles that this printing of the Bible shines. For example, as Revelation is working through events that link well to the Roman Empire, the reader finds a timeline from Augustus Caesar through Domitian. (Yes, they’re all “Augustus” and “Caesar,” so from Octavian, then.) This features images from Roman art and a brief sketch of their life. Other areas feature full-color photos and illustrations, including useful charts and diagrams.

While the NLT Illustrated Study Bible is helpful throughout, I found the chart showing the lives and ministries of Israel's prophets was the "open my eyes" graphic for me. Full-color throughout, but this showed not only the years of each prophet's work, but helped to line up the global events with the times of the prophet's words. Seeing which prophets overlapped also opened my eyes to how they may have interacted.

In all, a great study and learning tool for digging deeper into Scripture.



The Great Priest: from Advent 2011

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;” Hebrews 3:1

The next gift mentioned in Matthew is called frankincense. This is where a good many of us get lost, since we do not often have much sense regarding scents.  It is obtained from balsam trees, specifically ones that are indigenous to regions of Arabia and the Horn of Africa. In ancient times, it held a great value because of the localization of the economy.

Today, though, frankincense does not seem to be that big of a deal. At this moment, I can order a pound of frankincense from Amazon.com for under twenty dollars! It does not have the intrinsic worth that gold has. One reason is this: as long as you can grow a Boswellia tree, you can make more. It’s like maple syrup: there is a specific source and varied conditions can cause a shortage, but if you can grow the tree and learn how to tap it, you can have more next year.

Why, then, is frankincense valuable?  We can see that it is: if you look at Exodus, frankincense is part of the holy incense prescribed in the Torah. It can also be found in Song of Solomon as a part of social and intimate life. It was part of the sacrificial system in Leviticus. Even non-canonical books mention frankincense. 3 Maccabees mentions that elephants were given frankincense and wine to drive them mad! The stuff shows up in various places.

The main use, though, is not to drug elephants. That story is actually not very reliable anyway, but it is entertaining. The primary use of frankincense is in religious observances. It is, as mentioned, part of sacrifices, anointing, and Song of Solomon puts frankincense into the marriage celebration. Why is a tree product that valuable?

As I said above, it was difficult to obtain in a non-globalized economy. It requires effort to obtain. One can pay enough for it, but one could also find a way to grow it and prepare it yourself. God is gracious like this: wealth is not the key to worship. Effort is. Action that reveals the heart of the worshipper is more important than how big of a check was written. It was valuable because God commanded it.

And frankincense represents that. It was a necessary part of worship: it was used to anoint the High Priest and used in the most important sacrifices. It was a part of the smoke of the fire on the altar that went up before God constantly. Its presence signified the presence of God.

The Magi bring it to Jesus. Whether they fully understand how He is the High Priest for all time is a question that I cannot answer. I know that they could have read of His coming from one of their predecessors, known to them as Belteshazzar. He was a wise man of Babylon who went on to be a wise man of the Persian Empire, and it is from Persia that the Magi have come. Belteshazzar has mentioned the coming of a glorious one, and based on his experiences with telling dreams, reading miraculous handwriting, and surviving lions’ dens, his voice would likely be remembered.

Daniel  (that was Belteshazzar’s other name. You might remember that one better, it was the one his mother gave him!)  had spoken of the coming Anointed One in his writings[1] and the Magi are standing before that One. They present Him with a gift that does not acknowledge His kingship, but rather His Priesthood. As High Priest, He represents God to the people, and the people to God. He is the embodiment of religious truth and greatness.

Let us take time this week to examine Jesus as the Great High Priest.

Scripture Passage for the Day: Hebrews 8:1-2 (NASB95)
“Now the main point of what we are saying is this:
 We do have such a high priest,
who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord,
 not by a mere human being.”

Hymn for the Day: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus #176

Prayer: Almighty God, I have often sought to bring to you what I consider valuable. Yet Your priorities are different than mine, and I must learn to worship You as You command. I ask for help: Jesus came not only as my King, but as the only priest that I need. Help me to come to You through Him. Through His work and His word. I have learned to say I pray in His name, but help me learn what it is to pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.



[1] Daniel 9:24-25; Messiah means “Anointed One”

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sermon Recap for December 6

Well, this doesn't bode well for the week. I'm already 2 days behind.


Morning Sermon December 6: Frankincense: Hebrews 8 (audio)




Evening Sermon December 6: Revelation 12 (audio)



Thursday, December 3, 2015

Not Subtle: Matthew 3

In Summary:

Matthew 3 opens with a look at John the Baptist, setting the stage for Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. The bulk of the chapter covers what John was preaching and who his audience was. A few pieces of background are helpful, though, before we take that apart. First, note that there is a gap between Matthew 2 and Matthew 3 that covers at least two decades. It’s probably closer to two-and-a-half decades, but we have to take the information from Luke that places this in the fifteenth year of Tiberius to draw a clear date. (Somewhere around 26-28 AD, depending on how the calendars synchronize.)

Second, note that Matthew does not spend any time on the birth of John the Baptist. Neither is any effort expended on John’s overall lifestyle or community efforts. We get a glimpse of his diet and fashion, and we know he dwells out in the wilderness, but we know little else. Be sure, as with all parts of Biblical narrative, to separate the known from the assumed. Knowing the culture and the general idea of normal life allows us to fill in some suppositions, but they remain just that. An example with John the Baptist is found in the frequent assumption that he was part of the Essene community in the wilderness—or, at the very least, was in a community that was like them—or, perhaps he was trying to model his life after theirs.

John’s a good example of someone that Scripture records a very specific slice of his life and nothing else. Then we try to fill in the blanks and project that as truth.

In Focus:

Let’s take Matthew 3:7 for our focus point in this passage. John has been preaching that the people should repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He is seeing some measurable results, for many are coming out to hear him preach. And of those that hear him, many are baptized by him in the Jordan River. (There is no corroboration to the rumor that he baptized so many that “John the Pruned-Fingers” was an alternate title.) Sounds like things are going well in his ministry, for the more people that baptized to recognize repentance, the better he has made straight the path of the Lord.

Then events take a turn, and out come some of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They claim to be coming for baptism, but rather than baptize them, John calls them a brood of vipers. He then pointed out the wrath that was coming on them, for a baptism of fire was on the way (3:11-12) and that fire would be destroying the chaff that was useless. John religiously derides the religious leaders of his day and leaves them with one possible out: bear fruit that shows repentance. Not make statements or even join the movement, but bear fruit. Otherwise the axe and the fire are coming for them.

John is certainly not subtle in how he speaks to the Pharisees and Sadducees.

In Practice:

Fortunately, in our day, we don’t have Pharisees and Sadducees to deal with. After all, there are none in our culture who claim to be religious leaders who are driven by power, legalism, or materialism, right? Maybe we have something to learn here after all. Let’s take a moment and see what we have.

We’ll start with how John is not subtle with the religious leaders in his speech. He calls them what they are, making plain their offenses before God. He is not doing this on a populist notion, thinking it will win him points with the people. Instead, it is truth-driven. What does that mean?

Flattery, especially without truth, is not the God-honoring option for our speech. It is worth noting that John is direct with the crowd, but that his harsh tones appear reserved for the people who should have known better. We would be wise to consider our audience as well: there are people that should know better, spiritually, and those who are rightly still figuring out what it is to walk with Jesus. This does not change the truth, nor allow us to avoid speaking the truth. But no more than we chastise toddlers for falling should we chastise new believers for stumbling. Those who claim to be marathoners, though, who can’t get down the sidewalk are another matter.

Second, note the rest of the chapter. John is not subtle, and then Jesus comes on the scene. He’s less subtle than John. He instructs John about baptism. Then, God the Father speaks from the heavens—again, clearly. Subtly, then, should not be taken as the God-honoring option. Not when the plain truth should be spoken.

In Nerdiness:

Three Nerd Points:

Nerd Point 1: “the Baptist” could be translated “the Immerser” if not for a few hundred years of English-translation tradition. While you will find “ceremonial washing” as a potential definition for the Greek word “baptizo,” you will also find that usage applies almost exclusively in the Christian tradition, starting with John. In short—if you want “baptizo” to mean “ceremonial washing” because you do “ceremonial washing” and not immersion, you can assume that’s what the word means and read it back. Otherwise, you have to wrestle with the idea that “immerse” is the idea present. (This understanding of baptism is one of the major reasons I’m not Presbyterian. That and ecclesiology. Well, that, ecclesiology, and a few other things.)

Nerd Point 2: Dating of the events. When does this happen? Around the fifteenth year of Tiberius. Is that not 29 AD? It is, if you count from Tiberius taking over by himself. It could be earlier, if you use Tiberius’ coregency. Mix it up with Tiberius’ adoption (unlikely) and it changes more. See? This is why your history book has absolute dates in it.

Nerd Point 3: Don’t miss all of the Trinity present/evident at the baptism of Jesus. Which was, most likely, in the modern nation of Jordan.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A place in the story: Bethlehem

I'm going to intersperse a few highlights from this book along with normal posts these next few weeks. Don't worry, the author won't mind. But if you want the whole thing, grab the book. It's not that expensive.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. (Luke 2:6 NASB) 
Where should we begin this year's Advent observances? That is a question I have wrestled with while preparing these short devotionals. In a prior effort, I examined the gifts of Christmas (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) to look at the meaning of Christmas. This year, I want to look at the places of Christmas. Where does the story happen? There are many that matter to the story. Consider the Garden of Eden and the plains of Canaan. Think 0f Egypt, or Midian, or Jericho. Imagine the hills of Bethlehem, walked by a shepherd boy with a slingshot. Contrast those hills with the halls of Babylon, walked by the prophet Daniel, or the halls of Jerusalem, walked by Isaiah and Jeremiah and Micah. Add to those the Temple of Solomon, the Temple of Haggai, the Temple of Herod...and the village of Nazareth. We even see the curtain pulled back and see how all the heavens touch Christmas.
Where to start?
I am not the wisest of teachers born of men, but I know that the Great Teacher wrote the story in the first place. And where did He start? He started in Bethlehem. He did not start out there on the hills with the sheep or in the city gates of governance.
He started in a manger, just outside an inn. He started when her days were completed and the Incarnation became visible to everyone. We will, therefore, start there. That manger held the Son of God, born for the salvation of mankind. Christmas celebrates that moment, and we will do well to start looking toward Christmas Day from that point.
After all, we face the Advent season with this great blessing: we know the whole story. We are not seeing the story unfold in the first place, as Mary and Joseph did, nor are we jumping in later with the Apostles. We are blessed to look back and know how it ends. We know the terrible glory that is the Cross, the amazing glory that is the Resurrection, and the astonishing glory that is the Ascension.
So we look back, starting at the manger. We remember that Christ was born. Born of a virgin named Mary, chosen by God in His grace--for Scripture gives us no compelling details of her that would pick her. Born to the family of a carpenter, a construction man, named Joseph, who enters quietly stage left, stays for a few years, and departs with no definitive word of when he left. Two people who are highly ordinary, except for the work of God in their lives.
They come to a highly ordinary place called Bethlehem.
True, it is the City of David, but under Roman domination, what does that mean? Precious little. After all, Judea is over near the edge of the empire and hardly that big of a deal. The Romans trade with their territory in Egypt via ship, so the old need for land trade through Israel has abated.
Christmas, then, comes when Someone beyond extraordinary comes into this world through an almost boringly ordinary story: born in Bethlehem, in a manger, because of government bureaucracy. Born on time, at the completion of her days, so that His days could begin.
Let us begin, then, to see how our ordinary lives are transformed as we learn of and walk with the Extraordinary One.

His name is Jesus.

Have you ever felt too ordinary to be of use? Do you think that God can still do extraordinary things through ordinary places?

Hymn for the Day: "O Little Town of Bethlehem" by Phillips Brooks. (#196 in the 2008 Baptist Hymnal from Lifeway Worship.)


Special Music for the Week: "Child of Bethlehem" by Wayne Watson (on his 1994 Album One Christmas Eve, also available digitally)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sermon Recap for November 29

Two things: First, the buzz is back on the video. I thought I had it fixed, but apparently it’s coming from another place on the sound system. Second, I’m trying to work on the pacing back and forth, but I’m not getting anywhere. Take both ways. I can’t break the habit, but I also don’t get anywhere. I walk half a mile a sermon, and always end up in the same place.

Morning Sermon: The King is Promised 2 Samuel 7 (audio)

Evening Sermon: Prepare the Way of the Lord (audio)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Book: Dinosaurs: Marvels of God’s Design

Dinosaurs: Marvels of God's Design

Dinosaurs: Marvels of God’s Design is the latest book on my shelf that works to harmonize the fossil evidence of dinosaurs with a Creationist view of the earth and its age. The challenge for Dr. Tim Clarey is that he approaches the issue from a perspective that is outside of the normal scientific view. Given the publisher of this book is Master Books, Dr. Cleary works with the Institute for Creation Research, these presuppositions are clearly on the table.

Knowing the purpose of this book, let us evaluate it from there. Clarey (who I keep mistyping as “Clearly,” and the spell-check doesn’t catch that) aims to provide the “science of the Biblical account.” The fundamental problem with this aim is found in the definition I learned of science. There is, and will be, great difficulty in finding either replicated results from Clarey’s work or other scientists from outside his circle. The trust factor is strong here, as is the confirmation or dis-confirmation bias.

On to the material: we are looking at a full-color printing in a hardcover book. It feels durable and will hold up well to repeated readings and leafing-through. The print quality is good, the colors are vibrant. It looks good and feels good as a book, except for the presence of endnotes rather than footnotes. If it’s a science book, then the research aspect should be considered alongside design. Not being able to easily look up the notes is a problem.

Contents: Clarey begins with a look at the Biblical account and how dinosaurs can fit within the scope of the Old Testament. This includes a look at the Ark and other aspects of historical investigation into dinosaurs. For example, how were dinosaurs understood initially? What are some of the historical finds that suggest dinosaurs living at the same time as humanity?

From this, Clarey then builds his case for dinosaur life fitting into a timeline using only thousands of years rather than millions. This is, of course, the most controversial aspect for the book. If you approach it with a theistic view, that God makes it all work, then you’ll have no problem with this conclusion. If your view is atheistic, or that God does not make it work (either one), then you’ll disagree. I’d be surprised if those in the non-creationist views found Clarey’s view persuasive. It supports those who hold the idea in the beginning, but I don’t see it working well to change minds.

As is frequently the case, the strength of the Creationist argument is the holes in the evolutionist argument. For example, Clarey points out the difficulty with soft tissue finds in dinosaur fossils. This is a still-debated point, but is a problem for the view that those fossils are 65 million years old. Does that overcome the other evidence? That is the question you’ll need to answer from what you’re able to assess.

In all, Clarey presents his case clearly. I find it well-stated and informative. Overall, I like it and will put it on the shelf with the other dinosaur books that come from the non-creationist perspective. It’s useful to put the two philosophical views together, because that’s where the difference truly is. It’s not just about the bone in the ground, it’s about the lenses through which it’s viewed.

So grab a copy and put this on the shelf with your dino stuff. It’s not perfect, but it’s worth having.

I did receive a free book in exchange for the review.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Book: What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About

We’re into the Christmas gift-giving shopping season. Here’s a book for the budding Biblical student in your life.

What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About, Second Edition

One should always be wary of someone who claims to know what another person cares about…but editors Berding and Williams have a good presentation of the methodology here. The goal is to examine what each author wrote as a body of work and analyze it. Obviously, we won’t find here that the Apostle Paul really cared about pizza, but that’s not really an area of New Testament study anyway.

So what is What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About? In a nutshell, it’s a survey of the New Testament like you’d find in either an undergraduate introduction course or a deeper study at church. You have the basic breakdown of authorship, date, and location of writing for each New Testament book. These follow the conservative end of the spectrum, without dealing greatly with the extreme end of the other view—you won’t find a lot of effort to correct ideas like placing authorship of Pauline epistles in the second century.

I like the approach. I was a fan of the first edition, which was a softcover, and greatly enjoyed the Old Testament companion volume. The full-color approach is also great for engaging attention and the charts help make some information clear. I remember having to hand-draw charts of where Paul was when he wrote what…or which Old Testament book was quoted most often.

Writing style is easily accessible. Rather than aiming for the ceiling or the highly academic, the collection of authors have aimed for the general public. The learning here is not out of reach—it’s not easy level, but it’s not impossible level.

Conclusions? As always, there’s a theological bent to everything in the Biblical Studies world. The writers here come down more toward the Reformed theological side, but the facts are not warped to meet that point. The leaning is clear, but that does not detract from the value of the book.

I especially like the presentation of the New Testament out of the normal sequence. This challenges the reader to think a little more deeply. All in all, a great book for the growing New Testament student.

 

Free book received in exchange for the review.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gratitude

If you went into aviation, one thing you would learn to use is called an altimeter. It's the instrument that tells you how high your aircraft is--usually above sea level, but some of the really fancy ones can tell you both above the ground and above sea level. It's been a long time since I even read a basic aviation textbook, considering it made no mention of GPS and computer navigation back in those days. So I may not be exactly right.

What I do know is that you need help in keeping up with where you are while in flight. "Looks like it" is just not good enough and often leads to disaster. What does that mean for us?

Simply this: if you're flying, watch your altitude.

If you're not flying, you're good. Wait, that seems like a pointless blog post, doesn't it?

How about this instead: just as altitude checks are important for flight, gratitude checks are important for life. They keep us up from crashing, even if just barely.

And like the two forms of altimeter--above sea level and above ground level--there are perhaps two main forms of gratitude. Let us explore them and express.

Above sea level, or absolute, or standard, or fixed-point gratitude would be the gratitude we feel toward the immovable realities of life. This starts, as a Christian, with my gratitude to God for all that He has done. For making a world in the first place. For not scrubbing the whole thing when humanity brought sin into it. For not scrubbing the whole thing every time humanity mucks it up again.

For salvation through Jesus and the reality that He died for sinners--and I'm a sinner, so He died for me. For the blessed truth that He was greater than all my sin and rose again, that the gift of God is salvation by grace through faith. And that God has not left us alone on this earth.

Then there are the smaller realities. I'm thankful for those who founded an imperfect country and left us with the means to make it better. I'm thankful for those who have laid their lives on the line to keep us in that country.

I'm thankful that Carl Hibbard, Sr., decided he wanted a different life than the Kentucky/W. Virginia coal mining life.That Harry Rose decided Pennsylvania was too cold and moved to Florida. That the Army let Dad out a year early, For all the things that came before, setting the stage for the blessings of life I started with.

Then, there's the other form of gratitude. Like the above ground level altimeter, this one reflects on what is going on right here, right now. In that department, we find the gratitude for how we are where we are, and how we make it any further.

Like having a very gracious and loving wife. Being grateful that we all get choices about what to eat, rather than not having enough food at all. For 3 kids who are, generally, pleasant to be around. And for all the little things that are underneath that concept.

For a church family that loves us and prays for us. For a job. For clothing to wear.

On down to the finer details, like being thankful for good coffee.

The key is this: how much do I have that is beyond what I deserve? Or, truthfully, beyond what I could do for myself? The more we realize just how much we need each other, the more we express gratitude, the better our lives work in community.

So take time and work on that idea for a little while. What are you grateful for?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sermon Recap for November 23

I know, I said these would move to Tuesday. Well, indecision is the key to flexibility. This is a different kind of week, which gives us a different kind of blog schedule.

November 22 AM Sermon: Thankful for the God of the Storm: Psalm 29 (audio)

 

Text: Psalm 29

Date & Place: Nov 22 EEBCAR

Title: Thankful for the God of the Storm

1. Worship the Lord

2. The Storms come....

3. Worship the Lord

4. The Storms rage....but God is greater

November 22 PM: Psalm 30 (audio)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book: Rediscovering Discipleship

Today’s book is brought to you by Zondervan.

What does it mean to “make disciples?” That’s one of the key questions that Robby Gallaty’s book Rediscovering Discipleship seeks to answer. Further, Gallaty works to address what it looks like to actually do the work in our churches.

First, let’s look at the structure of Rediscovering Discipleship. Gallaty gives us thirteen chapters, broken in two major sections. The first section, comprising seven chapters, looks at how Jesus made disciples. The second section parlays that into how we can emulate Jesus.

Second, let’s look at the rightness of the overall premise. Has the Church neglected discipleship such that it needs rediscovered? Gallaty makes the case well that this is true, at least of those parts of the church in the United States of America. He’s right—both the witness of the Church in the world around us and the experience of those within the church support the lack of depth in our discipleship.

Third, let’s consider his recommended solutions. He recommends such ordinary means as time, Bible reading, and personal relationships. Since his concepts are based in the same practices that we see Jesus use in the Scripture, it’s hard to argue with that idea. Some of his suggestions stem from ideas used by Wesley in the development of the Methodist way, which is not bad unless you turn legalist with it. This is, honestly, the biggest threat to most discipleship groups and plans. The step from “accountable” to “control” is a short one in the wrong direction. This is one of the main killers of discipleship these days, the trip and fall into legalism—or the fear of doing it so that you never start!

The above fear is why we need community and not commanders in the church.

How practical is this book? Immensely. I would highly recommend this as one of the better practical books on church growth I have seen. What is the one major flaw? Zondervan saddled it with endnotes instead of footnotes. Beyond that, it’s well worth the time and study.

I did receive a free book in exchange for the review.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wise Men: Matthew 2

In Summary:

Matthew 2 gives an extended look at the Christmas story. Sort of, that is. Jesus is already born by Matthew 2:1. We have some guesses about how much time intervened between the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Magi in Jerusalem, but we are doing just that: guessing. It is reasonable, based on the tragedy of the later verses and the slaughter of the innocents, that it has been somewhere in the range of two years.

The Magi come to Jerusalem, find their way on to Bethlehem, and then go home. In the midst of this, they present gifts to the Child Christ and worship Him. We then see Joseph take His family and flee to Egypt, knowing the wrath of Herod was coming. This is probably the first time we truly see Joseph, Mary, and Jesus travel on their own—though our picture of the “Flight to Egypt” is still heavily Americanized. The Holy Family most likely joined with a group of travelers headed to the parts of Egypt where Jews already lived.

The chapter passes through the wickedness of Herod as he orders the slaughter of the little boys of Bethlehem and on to Joseph and Mary’s return to Nazareth. Matthew presents the move to Nazareth as unplanned, though Luke gives Nazareth as Mary and Joseph’s original hometown. Perhaps their intention was to remain in Bethlehem, but they went back to extended family. There are some uncertainties, because the text gives us the current motivation: avoid dwelling in the district of Judea, because Herod’s son had taken his throne.

In Focus:

Turn a close eye not a specific verse, but at the wise men of the story. True, we do not have a count of how many there are. There are at least three, and could be more than that. The unnamed wise men are the Magi (though tradition gives us three of them, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar), while we know one more wise man by name. His name? Joseph.

How do these display their wisdom? The Magi see the signs in the heavens and follow them. As people without the Word of God to understand, they followed the light they had, in this case a literal star, to worship the One True God. Their testimony stands to convict those who claim the world did not provide enough light to seek Jesus. It took one star.

Joseph reveals a different wisdom. Knowing that danger will soon engulf his family, he flees. Scripture does not tell us this was done in fear, and so we can speculate that it was done in wisdom instead. He wisely knew that God had warned him to get away, and he obeyed. Further, when it was time to return to the land, Joseph heeded the warning of God again and settled his family back in Nazareth.

In Practice:

Practically, then, what should we do? We cannot run off with the Baby Jesus. Unless you’re the prankster of the local Nativity display…

Instead, let us examine a few things to be and not to be. First, let us take a page from the Magi and be wise about the world around us. There are evidences of God working in the world all around us. Follow them the best you know how, and find those who will help you follow better. The Magi did that, though it led them to one of the “unwise” of the story.

Second, let us examine the unwise men of the story. These were the Jewish scribes and chief priests, who saw the Word of God as cold and dead. Rather than seeing the coming of the Messiah as even possible, it was simply a fact to dispense and dismiss. We should let the truth transform us rather than simply treat truth as a commodity to be distributed.

Third, let us examine the named wise man of the story, Joseph. We see him listen to God and avoid coming danger. We should seek God for guidance in all that we do. And whatever we do, we do not allow the Gospel to go unproclaimed. While Joseph had the responsibility to care for the Baby Jesus, we have the responsibility to proclaim the full truth about Him. This, and without bringing disrepute on the name of the Lord through our lives.


In Nerdiness:

Less than nerdiness, which could be expended on Magi and identities and Egypt and Herod and Archelaus and his banishment to France/Gaul, let us look at the really hard part of this chapter. Why does God allow the slaughter of the innocent baby boys of Bethlehem?

No amount of academic dismissal of the size or scope of the moment reduces its tragedy. At the least, two families were deprived of their sons in this moment. True, it is likely not the “thousands” of legend, but what is that to the families who lost one? It is no less tragic. On this, I have no great answers. It is troublesome that God allows human evil to go forth, sometimes unchecked. Perhaps there is a grace here that Jesus is born in Bethlehem, a smaller town, and not Jerusalem. Perhaps there is a grace that we do not see in Scripture, that warnings came to the people and they fled.

Perhaps there is a confluence of prophetic word and event, as Jeremiah predicted this and the people of Israel lived it in the Exodus era. Perhaps it just reminds us of how evil people can be.

I don’t know. I want a cleaner answer, and there isn’t one. I know that, in due time, Herod’s people (the Roman government) got the baby they were looking for and nailed Him to a cross. Eventually, the sin-soaked world with death all around wins the battle. God, though, wins the war. In His resurrection we find our hope, even if we don’t find our answers.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sermon Recap for November 15

Good morning! Here are yesterday’s sermons.

Morning Sermon: Ruth 4 (audio)

November 15 AM Ruth 4

Redemption

1. The irredeemable in us

2. The irredeemable in others

Ruth is redeemed by Boaz--what does this mean? Protection, provision...but more than that, home and relationship. Survival.

Deliverance from the fate of Moabites: exclusion

Points:

1. You are redeemable by the power of God. No one has a higher right to redeem you than Jesus

2. Redemption is not without price---but it is without price to the redeemed!

3. Redemption results in responsibility

4. Redemption establishes one in relationship

Evening Sermon: Introduction to Deuteronomy (audio)

•Deuteronomy 1 opens with a reminder of Moses spreading the burden of leading the people

•Recapitulation of the History of Israel thus far.

•Moses’ death

•Burial of Moses….somewhere on Mount Nebo

•Editorial finishing of the book—not necessary for Moses to have written his own death

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Limited Options: Matthew 1

In Summary:


Matthew opens his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. It is likely a representative genealogy, meaning that the facts are accurate but some generations may be left out or compressed. How does that happen? There is precious little difference in the words for son/descendant and father/ancestor, because culturally there is some compression on the issue. One is not just a "father's son" but also a "grandfather's grandson" but all fall under an "ancestor's descendant." The rest of this debate is better suited to the "nerd note" section.

The opening genealogy traces Abraham down to Jesus, passing through David and the deportation to Babylon. Matthew moves on to the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, though the nativity itself gets only a passing mention in Matthew 1:25. Which, by the way, is an interesting side note about Christmas chaos: there's hardly any clear Scripture about what happened that day/night. To what end do we get so worked up about it?

Matthew does highlight Mary's virginity three times in eight verses. That indicates significance, and that the Virgin Birth was not something created out of nothing by the church later on. How do we know that? The antiquity of Matthew is a reason--Matthew is written sometime between 60 and 100 AD. This is the range that works with history, with one's theology pushing towards the varying ends of the spectrum.


In Focus:


Let's put Joseph in focus today, looking at Matthew 1:18-25. Matthew provides the facts first: Mary is pregnant, she and Joseph are not married yet. There's much not said here, like how she "was found to be with child." That phrasing hints that there was more going on here than just Mary knowing she was pregnant. There's also the side note of how TV networks refused to use the word "pregnant" in the early days, but would use "with child." I think that was on I Love Lucy. As if the meaning is any different. (Although, thinking about it, I wish we use "with child" all the time. It's much clearer about what is happening.)

Mary already knows the facts while Joseph is in the dark. She is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, with details clearer for us in Luke 1:26 and following than they are here. Joseph, though, does not know what has happened. We have the benefit of history, looking back at the whole picture. He's living it. 

And he likely doesn't know what to do at this point. His options, not knowing about the divinity of Mary's unborn child, are the she either loves another or has no morals. Those are his choices for how this happened, and to his credit, he's neither jealous or angry. Apparently, that is, though I doubt Matthew recorded the first words out of Joseph's mouth. Instead, he wants to simply release Mary from their marriage. If she's in love, she can chase that. If she's immoral, he's out of having to deal with it.

Joseph, though, didn't have the full picture. There was an option that he never thought of, because the idea that the prophets of old would come true for his day was extreme. Instead of Joseph's righteousness on display, Mary's being "with child" would show the righteousness of God Himself. She was, indeed, a virgin and the one who bring forth a son called Immanuel.

In Practice:


Making it a given that Jesus came that way one time, and will return triumphant the next time, what do we do with this?

First, we acknowledge this: our own experience is not enough. Our imaginings and wonderings will get us so far, but never far enough. We cannot conceive of all the ways that God fulfills His Word.This is actually why many formulations of doctrine are negative: it is often very clear from Scripture what God said He will not do, but that leaves open many things. Further, Joseph could see in Isaiah that a virgin would have a child...but how was he to figure it would be his future wife? Let God work through the ways God works, being whatever part we can be.

Second, know this: our righteousness is limited. It is based on our understanding, which can be flawed. Be committed to walking in obedience with God--Joseph was. Once God made Mary's situation clear, Joseph followed God fully.

Third, be cautious about judging the ups and downs in another's life. If Mary's condition is known, and Joseph married her anyway, then he took on public scorn alongside her. His "righteous man" status would have fallen in the public eye, for he couldn't wait until the wedding, could he? But we see that privately, not only was he righteous at the beginning, he held on through the rest of the time to allow not only a virgin conception but a virgin birth.

Keep your body and will fastened to the righteousness of God.

In Nerdiness:


1. Genealogy of Jesus in Matthew is different from the one in Luke. We have to deal with that--the traditional Joseph in one, Mary in another, may not be right. But it's a start. There's also a possibility of tracing legal heads of household vs. actual parents, but I can't find the reference work on that one. Suffice it to say that both are accurate, so somehow it works.

2. Genealogy of Jesus: the inclusion of some of the women is important, as are their stories. Learn and read.

3. Genealogy of Jesus: note the symbolism of 14, 14, 14 to make the generations.

4. Authorship: How do we know Matthew wrote Matthew? Mainly through early church history. It's also logical, as there's precious little reason to scrape up the former tax collector as a potential author when others, like Peter, could have been suggested.

5. Date: most of the date debate is inconclusive. Does Matthew write about the Temple's destruction as prophecy? I think so, and I think that makes his Gospel pre-70 AD. Others disagree.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Book: Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament

Full disclaimer: I received this book free from Kregel Academic in exchange for writing this review.

Tough Questions About God and His Actions in the Old Testament

I’ve read several other books by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., over the years. He is a go-to scholar for evangelical America on Old Testament issues. So, I was interested in his latest from Kregel Academic/Ministry, Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament. I was hopeful that this book would become a great resource in pastoral ministry.

The questions are certainly present-day questions, such as “The God of Mercy or of Ethnic Cleansing?” or “The God who Elevates Women or who Devalues Women?” These questions form the chapters, providing the framework for the book. One question/chapter was unnecessary, and that was the last on dietary laws. This question fits into the wider framework of the chapter on Grace/Law, and the space could have been used for another question or issue. One that I would have liked relates to truth, accuracy, and historical records for the Old Testament.

Overall, though, while I find no major errors or issues with this work,. (As if I should sit in judgment on the Old Testament work of someone whose books were used to teach me the Old Testament,) I don’t find anything to commend as a necessary book. Some of the questions are framed as “either/or” and then answered with “both.” Others are answered with a fairly standard concept: whatever God does is right, but what God did then is not something we should assume He is going to command now.

While these answers are essentially accurate, they are not much help in the apologetic or teaching domain. That God ordering judgment on the Canaanites is fundamentally different than jihad in Islam is something I would accept on faith. Kaiser’s explanation isn’t much deeper than that. It presupposes that the Bible is right and the Qu’ran wrong, which is part of Christian belief. (Just as part of Islamic belief is the converse of that statement.)

Do I feel like it was a waste to read this? No, I do not. Kaiser has consolidated here a basic Christian response to the questions he cites. But all-in-all, I don’t think his answers cover the material well enough to work outside of the faith community. There’s just too much that grounds in the presupposition that God is always right.

Again, free book from Kregel in exchange for the review.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

50 Years On…The NIV

I’ve reviewed the Zondervan NIV Study Bible in the past, and was asked to share some information on the 50th Anniversary of the NIV as a Bible Translation. For those of you who wonder, the reason it’s 50 years is that 1965 was when the plan to make the NIV was first started. It’s 2015. That makes 50.

Growing up, the main Bible translation used in church was the King James Version. It flowed, it was poetic, and everybody knew it. As a young person, though, I found it hard to read. And hard, sometimes, to spell the words from it. “Divers” was “diverse” at school…so who was right? The Bible or the textbook?

As a youth, I got the first Bible I remember picking out. It was an NIV Student Bible, and it had all sorts of cool notes in it. Later on, college life required the first NIV Study Bible. This was a marked improvement in depth and academic study for study notes. In the time since then, I’ve tended more toward using the NASB instead of the NIV, but the NIV is still a Bible that gets used regularly. Especially the aforementioned Zondervan NIV Study Bible, which has become my favorite study Bible at this point.

What’s the overall story of the NIV? What happened with the TNIV, which seemed to be here quickly and then gone, and why the 2011 NIV? What’s up with all of that?

Rather than me tell you the story, let me point you to the web. First, there’s this rather lengthy explanation of the process. It’s worth examining. Then, there are videos, like this one:

which give some good background.

Overall, the heart behind the NIV remains the key: get the Word of God to people in such a way that they understand it. That’s what drove Wycliffe and Tyndale, and it drove the original NIV. It’s a work of love, done by a broad spectrum of scholars who love Jesus and the church of the Living God.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sermon Recap for November 8

Good evening!

Sunday night we did a bit of a recap of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention Annual Meeting, so I'm not going to post that. Here is the morning sermon. There's no video because the SD Card literally broke in my hand when I tried to put it in the computer to upload the video.

Ruth 1 (Audio link)

Please note that if you want a built-in player, you can find one here: http://www.eebcar.com/sermons-2/

November 8 AM Ruth 1

A. Setting: Judges. Chaos. Debauchery. (300 years of up and down, back and forth)

B. Setting: Bethlehem; Moab; 

C. Famine...not known exactly when

D. Naomi--pleasant; Elimelech "My God is King;" Mahlon could be "sick...." and Chilion could be "finished; frailty"



1. Relationships more important than regulations

2. Who are your kinfolk? The Blood of Christ is the unifying factor. Not ANYTHING else.


3. A definite Scriptural narrative that attacks racism at its core

Thanks!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sermon Recap for November 1

Morning Sermon: Romans 1:16-17 (audio)

Text: 

16 Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον⸆, δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν ⸋εἰς σωτηρίαν⸌ παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε °πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι*. 17 δικαιοσύνη γὰρ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν, καθὼς γέγραπται·* ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ⸆ ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται*.1

-------------------------

1 Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece (ed. Barbara Aland et al.; 28. revidierte Auflage.; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), Ro 1:16–17.

Date & Place: EEBCAR AM November 1

Title: Not Ashamed

Primary Theological Point: What should we learn? The grace of God is sufficient; surpassing works of righteousness or human grandeur; salvation is from grace alone.

Primary Practical Point: What should we do? Receive God's grace; show it by living by faith and not attempting to make life work by works.

Take Home Action: Write down this verse, nail it to your door... (ok, figuratively) and memorize it.

Textual Points:

  1. Setting: letter to Rome
  2. Events: first Century church, probably started by Jews of the Diaspora
  3. Connections: Habbakuk 2:4

Preach Points:

  1. Church: legalism and formalism must go; so also fear and floundering
  2. Salvation: through faith alone! SOLA FIDE!!
  3. Mission: Get forth and proclaim!

 

Evening Sermon: Introduction to Numbers (audio)

 

 

Introduction to Numbers November 1 PM

1. Redemption of Firstborn via Levites

2. Everybody has a job

3. //Weird: Adultery Test in Leviticus 5

4. Nazarites in Leviticus 6

5. Levitical blessing: Nu 6:24–26.

The Lord bless you and keep you;

25    the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

26    the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. 1NRSV

6. Numbers 7: Oxen and carts, but still some things were to be hand carried.

7. Action between census takings

8. Lots of complaining incidents

9. Spies from Kadesh

10. Same basic size beginning to end

11. Questions about the numbers of numbers: units/thousands/what?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Know it and Do it: Deuteronomy 27

In Summary:

We will finish the Pentateuch someday in this series. We will finish the Pentateuch someday in this series. Fortunately, the Minor Prophets are shorter.

Deuteronomy 27 sits on the edge of the Promised Land with the people of Israel and Moses. The elders of the people are involved as well as Moses (Deuteronomy 27:1), reflecting the upcoming leadership transition. The commandments of God are referenced here, and then critical ones are restated.

The chapter points strongly to the idea that the Law of God needed to be known by the people. You have a command to write it on a large stone monument—and to write it “distinctly” (Deuteronomy 27:8). Then you have the plan for the people’s recitation of certain parts of the Law. This included proclaiming together that those who forsook the Law were cursed. Not just in trouble, because “cursed” carries with it the idea of divine sanction.

The Law, though, was supposed to be two things. The first is clear. We often fuss about some of the odd details, but those details prevented someone slipping through the loopholes. The second is this: the Law should be known. If people don’t know you cannot hold them to it!

In Focus:

Turn your focus to Deuteronomy 27:9-10. We can see here that the Israelites were learning from an oral presentation, even though it would be written down as well. They were going to be responsible to listen well and remember, passing on what they heard and knew.

Now, back your focus up to Deuteronomy 27:5-7. This portion seems unrelated to the former passage, commanding that the altar of God be built with natural stones rather than dressed ones. In short, because there was no way for a craftsman to improve on God’s work. Nor should anyone build the altar such that they take credit for it.

In Practice:

Where these two intersect best is in the practice of the principle. Even living in a world with the maxim to “believe none of what you hear and half of what you see,” we still lean heavily on word of mouth for information. Don’t believe me? What do you think a review of a restaurant, movie, or business is? Word of mouth. Just because you’ve typed it out doesn’t make it more reliable.

In truth, a world with an unlimited supply of photons to generate Internet words means that today’s web words are on par with prior generations’ spoken hearsay. It’s just words, which we must discern the truth or falsehood of, based on wisdom. We share with Ancient Israel being a word-based culture. This is true in most areas, including religion.

And so we come to the altar. Fortunately, because Jesus died for our sins (see Hebrews…and the Gospels,) we don’t have to build a literal altar. But we can look at the principle of leaving God’s work to stand on its own. This is true of His Work, and His Word.

Consider this: we think that somehow, we can embellish, we can dress up, God’s Word so that people will like it better. Perhaps the Good Lord has been a bit rough around the edges, given a jagged look to the obedience called for. Let’s clean Him up a bit, round it off.

After all, people don’t need to know the unvarnished version. Let’s make it smooth. Except we are responsible for the words, and we are responsible to both the Lord God and the ones who hear us. Let us be certain we’ve got it right.

In Nerdiness:


I’m coming to agree with the idea that Deuteronomy may have been the first book of the Pentateuch written, at least in basic form. Then the rest was written/dictated by Moses to fill out all that occurred. At the very least, it should not be seen as a second telling like we normally call it. Most likely, Deuteronomy is the compact form of the Law for the people, with the finer points explained in Leviticus and Numbers for teaching and administration. Much like our legal system: murder is illegal. Everyone should know that. How does the statute describe murder? Much more in-depth. What do I need to know? That murder is illegal, but my lawyer may need more information.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book: The Carols of Christmas

I was going to save this review until after Halloween…but since Christmas trees are for sale at Target, I might as well go ahead and review a Christmas book. Besides, it’s also a history book. So it’s all good.

The Carols of Christmas adds to my shelf of “story behind the song” books, but in fairness to Andrew Gant’s hard work I’ll leave the others unnamed. I mention this just to show this isn’t my first trip into music history.

Of course, one fear of digging into the stories behind the songs is that you’ll find your favorite songs are just bad underneath. Fortunately, Gant hasn’t destroyed any favorite songs. It may be that he left out some with checkered stories…but we’ll have to wait for the sequel.

Instead, we have good stories behind 21 fairly well-known songs. Except for Personent Hodie, that is. The rest you’ll know. In this book, I appreciate Gant’s depth of writing and his willingness to acknowledge the differences between facts and legends. I also like that he did not stuff the book with unknown songs—presenting just one lesser-known carol for our enjoyment.

Overall, of course, the presentation is repetitive. Each chapter has a song, a story, and the sheet music for the song. That’s not the way you’d want a novel but this is a collection of stories. It works just fine this way. I honestly couldn’t sit and read the whole thing straight through…unless I was a history nerd. Which I am. Otherwise, though, it’s a bits and pieces book.

For example, in our house this is going to be part of daily leading-to-Christmas celebrating. One chapter a swatch, with singing the song each day. Good stuff.

I think this makes a great book for music lovers and Christmas celebrations both.

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Carrying on: Hebrews 13

In Summary:

Coming to the end of Hebrews, the final chapter is the fairly typical hodge-podge of a concluding chapter. Hebrews 13 runs along that path, ranging from practical statements about hospitality to updates on the author’s travel plans. Knowing, most likely, that people tend to remember the end of a letter (or sermon) better than the middle, Hebrews ends with rapid-fire reminders.

This includes a command to honor marriage; an enigmatic statement about ‘entertaining angels;’ a reminder that Christians are pursuing something greater than an earthly city; and a warning about strange teachings. That warning, Hebrews 13:9, rings true even today. We ought not be ‘carried away’ believing that we are strengthened by anything but grace.

Hebrews concludes with the exhortation to carry on. Most of the sentences are action-oriented, whether it is the command to “go out to Him” in v. 13 or to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise” in v. 15, we see actions to take. The temptation many of us succumb to is that we should shelter-in-place until the storms of the moment pass us by. Hebrews speaks today that we ought not do that.

In Focus:

Each nugget of instruction here is worth a bit of time, so take the time yourself to read it and do just that. Make good observations and examine how it applies. But for me, for now, I would put the focus on Hebrews 13:18-19. Why?

It’s a plea from the author of Hebrews. Sticking with my personal opinion that we are dealing with a sermon collection bound up and sent as a letter, I take this section as part of the add-ons for the letter. The bulk of Hebrews is theological and based in the oral presentation, but this is a personally written request. He asks that the believers pray for him and his fellow workers. (Yes, Greek nerds, it could be an editorial “we.”)

What do they need? A good conscience, a term he’s already used about serving God in Hebrews 9. They don’t want an erased memory for a good conscience, though. The desire is honorable conduct which brings the good conscience. The conscience follows the conduct. The author wills that he and his companions would carry on in such a manner that deserves a good conscience.

And apart from the power of God, he knows this is impossible.

In Practice:

Why focus here? I would have the same request in prayer, as should anyone who teaches, preaches, or leads in a church. It’s inseparable from Hebrew 13:17, where the readers are instructed to obey their leaders. It is a shameful and destructive thing to have leaders who are not concerned for doing their work honorably.

Or who believe that they can do it without divine intervention.

Alongside this, though, it’s not merely a need for front-and-center leaders. All of us believers have the responsibility to conduct ourselves honorably. It is a testimony to Jesus when we reflect His righteousness in how we handle everything we do.

This includes how we, as believers assembled in groups called churches, conduct our business affairs. We must be sure that we are behaving ethically and honestly. This includes the letter of the law (check your tax behaviors!) and the spirit of fair dealing. Too many times, we expect charity while giving none.

All through, this comes back to prayer. Prayer: where we come before a Holy God and acknowledge and embrace our need for Him. His power, His guidance. Without these, a church isn’t worth much at all. Neither am I.

In Nerdiness:

We can’t leave Hebrews 13:1 untouched in nerd notes. “Entertained angels?” What? We’ve got no good answer to this. It reflects some ancient mythologies where the gods came down in disguise to test hospitality. It evokes Lot in Genesis, taking in the angels.

Or you take the Revelation-based view, where “angel” is used in its more literal sense of “messenger” and we interpret it as referring to earthly messengers to people. Like preachers. Though how one could be unaware they have a preacher in the house is hard to fathom. The fried chicken went somewhere.

Then there’s Hebrews 11:23. Which refers to Timothy being released, and we assume it means from prison. It could also be from a contract or an obligation…but it’s probably prison. It also tells us Timothy didn’t write Hebrews.


Unless he’s using a cultural construct of referring to himself in the third person out of humility and uses this verse to give a clear name for who wrote the book. Which is, according to some, possible. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sermon Recap from October 25

Good Morning! Here is the morning sermon.

October 25: John 4 (audio)

 

That will wrap us up for John for a few months. For this Sunday, read Romans 1!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Shaken and Consumed: Hebrews 12

In Summary:

Hebrews 12 opens with the best example of the “therefore principle” in the book. What is the “therefore principle?” If you find the word “therefore,” it’s “there for” a reason, so you must find out what the “therefore” is “there for.” That’s the principle. Remember that words like “therefore” are conjunctions. They function to hook up words and phrases, showing relationships. Therefore shows dependency. Frequently in Scripture, “therefore” gives you this setup: a proposition is made, claiming facts to be true. Then “therefore” is used to show an action that should follow in the lives of believers. If the preceding is true, then we should act in a certain way…

That’s a lot of background for the summary part, but it’s crucial. Why? Hebrews 12 is more clearly directed toward action on the part of the readers than any portion of the book beforehand. This chapter’s therefore hinges the whole book, not just the chapter prior. The “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11 is the final piece of evidence that the proposition made at the beginning of Hebrews, in Hebrews 1:1-4, is true. God has spoken fully through His Son, and all things are complete by His hand.

Therefore, the readers and hearers of Hebrews are charged to hold on to the calling of Jesus as Lord. Chapter 12 reminds them (and us!) that they have come to Mount Zion, to assembly of the firstborn, and to God. Through Jesus, not through rule-keeping and not through fear, but through His blood, His grace, His mercy.

In Focus:

With such a packed chapter, isolating a focal point was a bit challenging. Still, I picked the format of these posts and a focus must be found. Let’s take Hebrews 12:27-29 as our focus. In these verses, God speaks clearly that He will shake the heavens and the earth. That means more than just an earthquake. God is speaking of the shaking of the created world based on His presence.

In short, a shaking that will topple all that cannot stand in His presence. It removes all that is not eternal, all that is not of God. And Hebrews 12:29 reminds us that being shaken by the presence of God isn’t the worst possible outcome. One must consider that God is a consuming fire, and that which is shaken will also be destroyed. Completely destroyed.

In Practice:

This is the practical chapter, though the specific actions are not spelled out for the reader. What does that mean? Like any good sermon, the author of Hebrews (Luke?) knows that being too specific in application risks missing a large swatch of the audience. For example, one can say “do not deny Christ when arrested!” only to leave those who deny Christ when facing business decisions thinking they have done well.

We see, then, that the guidance is slightly generalized. For example, the command is given to strengthen the hands of the weak and to pursue peace with all men. These types of actions reflect a people that are committed to following Jesus as King and Priest rather than any other person. Further, we see that we should be people who are not frightened away by the discipline of God. Discipline, keep in mind, is not merely punishment. Discipline is also what gets you out of bed in the morning to run, in preparation for your next race. It’s what drives you to keep doing what needs doing.

It’s something that I lack in many areas. And because of that, it makes me weaker than I should be accomplish what is in front of me. Yet if all of Hebrews is true: that the heroes of old stood firm; that Christ is the superior High Priest; that there is no shrinking back…if all of this is true, then I want to stand firm, that I will not be shaken by this world and that I will have done that which is not going to be shaken and consumed in eternity.

In Nerdiness:

Briefly: Deuteronomy 4:24 contains the statement “YHWH your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” James didn’t originate the thought, he carried it with him from his upbringing knowing the Word of God. What do we see in Deuteronomy that helps us understand his point better? The choice of our lives: follow God or reject Him, and accept the consequences either way.

Also, there’s an awesome song from Third Day’s first album about God being a consuming fire.

Service/Sermon Recap for October 25 2020

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