Monday, August 31, 2015

Sermon Recap for August 30

Yesterday, we celebrated the 79th Anniversary of East End Baptist Church. I’m grateful for the heritage of faith we have as a part of the body of Christ.

Morning Sermon: For the Sake of the Future Joshua 22 (audio)

August 30 Homecoming Joshua 22 

Text: Joshua 22:10-29

Date & Place:

Title: For the Sake of the Future: Joshua 22

Primary Theological Point: What should we learn? It takes deliberate effort to honor the past, live in the present, and equip the future.

Primary Practical Point: What should we do? Make the effort.

Take Home Action: Write your testimony and share it.

Textual Points:

  1. Setting: Israel after the conquest.
  2. Events: building of an altar, not for sacrifice but for teaching
  3. Connections

Preach Points:

  1. Church: do we honor the past or live in it? Are we equipping the future that we do not even know? Assume the better about your fellow church members and their motives.
  2. Salvation: Why an altar as a reminder? Because sacrifice is necessary for salvation....
  3. Mission: Are we thinking about future generations or not?
  4. Families: Set strange habits.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sermon Recap for August 23

Why, yes, I did preach yesterday. And I am crazy slow getting this uploaded. In fact, I’ll have to update it tomorrow with the audio links! It’s been a day with computers.
Morning Sermon:
Text: John 3:16-21
Date & Place: August 23 AM

Primary Theological Point: What should we learn? We're already judged--v. 18; and already loved; v. 16
Primary Practical Point: What should we do? Proclaim the truth: the world is judged; every last one of us. 
Take Home Action: Pick three people you don't like and pray for God to bless them every day.
Evening Sermon:
Text: Joshua 23
Date & Place: August 23 PM EEBCAR

Primary Theological Point: What should we learn? Ease makes sloppiness.
Primary Practical Point: What should we do? Don't relax your grip. (v. 8)
Take Home Action: Reflect on God's promises and then follow through on yours!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book: Oswald: The Return of the King

Some books I read for learning. Some I read because I’m assigned or offered reviews. Some, though, I just happily snag for free because it saves me the money of buying them. These are the fun reads, the ones I would like to spend far more time on than I have the chance to.

Oswald: The Return of the King by Edoardo Albert falls into this last category. I first met Albert’s writing in Edwin: High King of Britain and have since greatly enjoyed his non-fiction related works on early Britain. I guess one could say I am a fan.

Oswald follows on the heels of Edwin, as Britain remains in the turmoil of the post Roman Era. It’s an imaginative tale, obviously not entirely historically accurate. After all, there aren’t exactly newspapers from the time laying around to be read.

Still, Albert spins the tale well. The characters become people you actually care about, even though you recognize the reality of the environment. And that reality? People are going to die. It’s a bloody time, a violent time…and a time of all sorts of other perils.

The tale of Oswin and his choice between the monastery and the throne is not one most people are familiar with. It likely reflects the choice several people faced throughout the years of the Dark and Medieval Ages.

Albert not only provides a gripping story for the reader, but he also presents several helps. The first is a list of characters so that the reader can keep them straight. Second is a detailed historical note providing the facts behind the story.

Overall, this story doesn’t make a family-friendly movie, but it is a fascinating piece of history. It’s also an engaging read for those who want to know more about a generally overlooked time frame.

Is it worth the reading? I would recommend Edwin first, just to set the stage, but yes. It’s also well-worth having a copy around.

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

Giving: Deuteronomy 26

In Summary:

Deuteronomy 26 is focused on material giving. It is one of several areas in the Old Testament that take note of the practice of tithing. Others are found in Leviticus 27, Numbers 19, and Deuteronomy 14.

Tithing is also referenced in Malachi 3 but given that Malachi comes some 1,000 years after Deuteronomy, that’s not as useful in helping see what Moses is speaking of. Malachi relies on the Mosaic commands, because otherwise it just makes no sense at all.

The word itself needs this explanation: “tithe” comes from an Old English word for “tenth,” and translates a Hebrew word for “tenth.” A “tithe” is always a tenth of something, and the word occurs in multiple contexts. There is no requirement that a “tithe” be a religious word—see 1 Samuel 8 or J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King for examples.

Deuteronomy 26 addresses not only tithing, though. It opens with the instruction to take of the “first fruits” of the ground after the conquest and offering them to Lord God. This offering does not use the term “tithe.” Instead, it uses “some.” This reflects a different emphasis: tithing was ongoing and done as part of the covenant. Deuteronomy 26 spawns an annual festival, but it does not command it. Instead I see this as setting up a commanded initial celebration after the conquest.

How so? Other passages command the annual tithes, but this speaks of “when you enter the land” and “take…the first of all the produce.” This reads to me as if it were establishing a celebration not only of the conquest of the land, but of God’s provision of establishing normal life.

The same could be said of the “third year” tithe, at least as described here. In those first three years, the Levites, orphans, widows, and so forth would not have been able to establish their own holdings as well as the people had. The Levites would have been busy helping teach and establish the legal/government systems. Widows and orphans would have been allotted land initially, but whatever tragedy turned them into widows and orphans would likely have harmed their ability to feed themselves. This “third year” would have been a moment to stop and notice those whose first years in the Promised Land had not gone well.

In all, this chapter speaks of a set of specific giving requirements, but the application of them today is likely doubtful. Except for what I will put in focus today.

In Focus:

The middle of this chapter deals not with what one gives, but addresses what one says when he gives it. The formula of “My father was a wandering Aramean…” sets up the reciting of the history of the people of Israel. It’s a history different than we tend to think of, as it is a history reflecting the unmerited favor that God poured out on them throughout the time from Abraham until Moses.

It is a speech of gratitude and of remembrance. In it, the Israelite is reminded that he wasn’t alone in this world. And he hadn’t pulled himself up by his own sandal straps. It was the grace of the Almighty who brought him there.

In Practice:

We’re not Israelites possessing the land in 1400 BC. Most of us are not even first-generation people in our own country. We’ve started off better than a new wave of immigrants would have.

The same is true spiritually, as well. We have churches and fellow believers to connect with. Even those who are first-generation believers can still find long-running disciples to learn from. We still, though, should remember that apart from the grace of God, we really don’t have much at all. What, then do we do? As always, I’ve got some suggestions:

1. Don’t separate financial/material giving from your faith heritage. There is a growing tendency to pull finances out of the behavior of the body of Christ. While I respect the privacy of people in their giving (I really do not want to know who gives or how much), not connecting that aspect of life with the rest of our worship isn’t wise for making disciples. We need to make whole-life disciples, and that includes material.

2. Giving should come from a grateful heart, not from a guilt-driven life. I understand Scripture to set forth a standard that we should follow, but it should be a gratitude that drives us. Not guilt response or attempting to buy the favor of God.

3. Material blessings come in many forms, not just literal fruit but also the fruit of our labor. The joy of worship through giving is not reserved to those who have farms.

In Nerdiness: 

It’s already pretty nerdy in here, with positing a different take on Deuteronomy 26. The alternate, and standard, view is that this chapter commands establishment of a yearly tithe and and triennial social needs tithe. This is, like I said, the normal view. It all hinges on the interaction between this chapter and the remainder of the passages relating to tithing and giving.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book: Brick Walls and Picket Fences

It’s written by a web friend of mine, but I did actually buy my own copy of today’s book. Although I now expect a significant kickback from Dave for being nice.

Brick Walls and Picket Fences by Dave Miller, 226 pages, softcover from Rainer Publishing.

Dave Miller’s Brick Walls and Picket Fences was born out of a combination sermon and blog series he presented while pastoring a Southern Baptist church. The book expands on the ideas he developed about applying doctrine to church fellowship and interaction.

Miller’s work addresses how deeply we should build the separations between believers. The first level he presents, the Brick Wall, is clearly the most absolute of separation. This is suggested as the response to those whose doctrine makes cooperation simply impossible. Not only would cults, obviously, fall into this group, but so would those who view Scripture as errant or subscribe to extreme views on some issues like family life. These are people who may be believers but that it is impossible for others to work with them due to their beliefs.

From there, each of Miller’s levels get smaller. A picket fence separates those who can do some things together, but still cannot live together. This would be the separation between Southern Baptists and Orthodox Presbyterians, for example, who differ over baptism and ordinances but could together proclaim Christ crucified and risen. Dinner table divisions are those internal discussions, like whether or not Sunday night church is crucial. Personal space issues would involve those matters which ought not even divide a Sunday School class, like whether or not a Christian can attend a sporting event.

Throughout the work, Miller speaks with the compassionate voice of a pastor. That is, perhaps, what separates Brick Walls and Picket Fences from other treatments of theological divisions. Other works often approach the subject from a more calculated perspective without consideration of how doctrinal division looks up and down church row in our town. Miller’s work considers not only the need for right doctrine but the importance of relationships that look outside our boxes.

While Miller does, occasionally, lapse into the wordiness common to preachers, he stays on track well. I can easily recommend this as a starting point for a church studying how doctrine affects their relationships with other believers.

We bought a house

Well, yesterday we signed and reviewed over 90 pages worth of loan and title documents and closed on our house. Why does this matter enough to blog about it?

Because it’s part of life, normal, ordinary life. It’s the next thing on my list of stuff I was never going to do again that I have now gone and done…again.

Why didn’t we want to do it again? Last time we bought a house, the housing market collapsed, we moved, and we couldn’t sell it. In the long run, it took a lot of help and miracle not to go to have it foreclosed on, and I still owe someone for the gift/loan that kept us out of the deep doghouse on it.

And because last time it kept us from being open to the direction God was leading us, and then we went a less-than-good direction from there.

Then there are all the great questions about home ownership: do I know how to fix stuff? Can I afford to fix stuff?

Then, lo and behold, today it looks like a tropical storm is forming. Watch, it will get our house!

But we do what we need to do. For us, one thing we needed to do was make a mental commitment to be here. See, I liked my little country church and relaxed atmosphere. I liked the pace, the situation. And part of me will always miss the sunrise on the prairie, the ducks…but never the mosquitoes. NEVER!

Here, life is different. And here, I’ve been having trouble adjusting to it. It’s noisy. It’s busy. There are more people in my neighborhood than there were in our town. More people in the five mile radius around this church than there were in the whole county.

Seriously, Ann and I did the math the other day and discovered that the population density here is almost 100 times what it was there. Add to that the fear that people won’t like me here and leave church…which they might, truly. I assume there will be a 5-15% decline the first 18 months.

All that makes it easy to grow shallow roots, ready to transplant. Same with renting a house—all you have to do is follow your lease and then move on. Now, though, we’re here.

Stuck. Or committed. However you want to look at it. Some days, it will be more one than the other. But in our minds, we’re now here, committed to be here.

That’s the investment that home ownership is. It’s not that we expect to sell it someday for a profit—far more likely that we’ll barely pay it off someday—but that we have a place that we are attached enough to that we’re legally connected to it.

Does that make it impossible to follow God? Nonsense. It does show, though, that we are going to follow through with where He has put us now, and that we won’t lightly hold to the land we’re responsible for.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book: Urban Legends in the New Testament

Note: I received this book in exchange for a review here and at Arkansas Baptist News. So, here it is and then you should subscribe to the paper here. (or, if you are in an Arkansas Baptist Church, urge your finance committee to do the Every Resident Plan and keep your whole church up to date.)

Another note: I’m excited by books like this and a few others that you’ll see reviewed here eventually. We Baptists took a firm stand for the certainty of the Bible as inerrant several years ago, but in the process we slowed a bit on doing solid research and study. We are now finding our way back to doing real scholarship while holding to our convictions. Books like this are a product of that effort.

Urban Legends of the New Testament by David A. Croteau, 255 pages, softcover from B&H Academic (sample chapter here)

Were there 3 Kings of Orient at the manger? Where was the manger, anyway? A cave, a barn, or somewhere else? These questions are among the 40 addressed in David A. Croteau’s Urban Legends of the New Testament, recently published by B&H Academic Press.

What is an “urban legend” of the New Testament? According to Croteau, it is a “commonly circulated myth, repeated throughout the culture as common knowledge, but which isn’t true.” (p. xiii) For the New Testament, this includes misunderstandings about the original culture of first century Israel as well as well-intended, but erroneous, explanations of Greek vocabulary. It is Croteau’s assertion that we who take the Bible seriously should also strive to get it right. We need to eliminate the urban legends from our teaching and preaching.

How is the book laid out? There is a prologue and an epilogue, explaining purpose, and then there are 40 chapters each addressing an urban legend. Sixteen are taken from the Gospels with the balance found in Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. Each chapter follows the same format: an explanation of the legend, an effort to explain the origin of that legend, and the corrective prescribed from study.

The chapter titles themselves are more problematic than the material in each chapter. For example, one chapter addresses “Christians Are Commanded to Tithe” as an urban legend. The chapter itself, though, only speaks to one specific passage in Hebrews. The reader would be wise to examine the content of the chapters and not just judge by the headings.

Scattered throughout the book are QR codes which can be scanned with your smart phone. These link to videos of Croteau teaching on ten of legends mentioned in the text. If you are digitally inclined, these are of value. The prologue also provides a link for those who are not interested in using the QR system.

Each chapter features an annotated bibliography that references both print and digital resources. Some of the references are academic journals while others are books and blogs. Also commendable is the presence of footnotes.

In all, this is a useful reference book for preachers and teachers of the Word of God. At a minimum, it challenges the reader to correctly interpret and understand what is in the text. Highly recommended.

Solid not Squishy: Hebrews 5

In Summary:

Hebrews continues to extol the perfection of Jesus as high priest over the ordinary line of priests. Chapter 5 starts with the importance of the humanity of all high priests, for only in that humanity does the priest know how to help others with their struggles. After all, the high priest must recognize his own weakness or he will become arrogant and useless. Those who would mediate must be able to approach both sides.

From there, we see the progression. Hebrews 5:3 speaks of the need for ordinary high priests to offer sacrifices for himself, and the following verses refer to the selected nature of high priests: it’s not something one just chose for fun. Jesus was appointed to the role. He was the Son of God from eternity, but it was an act of Divine Will for Him to become the Great High Priest.

The author of Hebrews (Luke, Barnabbas, Apollos?) goes on to bring up Melchizedek from Genesis and then proceeds to back away from discussing him. Why? Because his audience was too immature to talk about deeper matters.

In Focus:

Let us, then, put Hebrews 5:11-14 under our focal lens today. The audience is called “dull” here, though the word carries a more negative connotation. It is more akin to “lazy” or “sluggish,” where the hearer is not attempting to listen well. The Hebrews here are not “dull” from lack of experience, but dull from lack of effort. That’s a critical difference.

They should have been, or at least some of them should have been, teachers. They should have grown in discipleship and knowledge to the point that they could feed themselves. And to the point that they could chew over issues and look at Scriptural connections between Old and New Covenants, between the events of the Patriarchal Age and the New Testament Church. (If they were next generation, it would be knowing the difference and relationships between the Patriarchal Age and the Patristic Age.)

But they were not. Instead, they needed the basics, again and again.

In Practice:

There are two errors here, one stated and the other known from experience. Let’s take them on and be done with it:

Stated: obviously, this one is clearer. As we walk with Jesus, we become more mature. Or at least we ought to. Too often, we do not. We fail to get to the solid ground that we ought to dwell on, to consume the mature meat of the Word of God. Now, as to the content of that? It’s not some hidden secret batch of insights. Anyone who suggests the “meat” isn’t available to all who seek it from God is selling something. (Usually literally.)

The unstated concern is that we do, at times, forget the basics. Or at least overlook them. Don’t forget that Jesus really died, really rose, and really is coming back. Do not overlook the realties of God’s work in your life and the world around you. Do not fail to read the Word of God.

Because there will always be a need for spiritual nutrition. Steaks, though, are more effective for growth than milkshakes. So grow so that you are mainly dependent on the solid, not the squishy.

In Nerdiness:

Well, we could dwell on Melchizedek but I’m not up for that. Look him up in Genesis 14. I think some research exists about how he came to be a larger-than-life figure from the Old Testament, such that Hebrews is not just pointing out the supremacy of Christ to the actual Melchizedek of Genesis 14 but the “Superman version” of Melchizedek.

I would also highlight to you Hebrews 5:7-8 and how Jesus prayed and learned in His Incarnation. Why does that matter? It reflects His humanity but also draws out the experiential nature of that time. He learned, not because He didn’t know how but because He finally acted. We don’t know if we don’t act.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book: Evangelicals Around the World

Today’s book is more of a textbook than a read-for-fun book.

What is an “Evangelical Christian?” Other than “Not a Catholic or an Episcopalian,” that is?

Trying to nail that answer down first, and then examining the history of what fits with Evangelical Christianity is the opening challenge of this book. After that, Evangelicals around the World addresses the global spread of this sector of Christianity. In short, there is no small task here, even for 400+ pages of densely spaced writing.

Before we talk too much about content, let me make this observation: this book is nicely printed. It’s full-color throughout, enabling the illustrations, maps, and graphs to pop out well. It also features footnotes! Academic-type works are harmed by endnotes, so I love to see footnotes.

Now, to content: the work opens with 200 events in history that illustrate the depth and breadth of Evangelicalism. This is followed by an attempt to define “evangelical” in broad enough terms to include many groups while still showing a restriction to its meaning. This chapter does well in the attempt, and I will not reproduce it here. The authors did well by using both “what it is” and “what it isn’t” to line out the definition.

From there, we see a development of Evangelical interaction with other Christian groups. One could take issue with which groups are counted as Christians—certainly some Evangelicals would—but the authors are mainly working on mainstream views here.

Then we see summaries of doctrines that Evangelicals agree on, with good notations on what range of opinions exists even in these areas. Rightly, the defining characteristics are the belief that the Bible is true and Jesus sent us to carry the message. How that bounds out is where there is much discussion!

Finally, the book wraps with a region-by-region look at international Christianity. This section serves as a helpful introduction, though international situations can be so fluid that some of this data will be obsolete soon. Still, the snapshot of “where things stand right NOW” is a valuable reminder that America is not the center of the Christian world.

In all, I think this is a valuable book on current church status and an encouragement that the Gospel keeps going forth. It’s not the first book you should read every day, but if your church wants to learn where things are, it’s a good help and start. I would also commend it to homeschoolers to couple, as a reference, with geography—learn about the church in each area as well.

Free book from Booklook Bloggers.

Sermon Recap for August 16

Good morning! Here are yesterday’s sermons. We’re searching for the background noise on the video feed. But it’s not easy to find….

Morning Sermon: Born and Reborn: John 3:1-8 (Audio)

Primary Theological Point: What should we learn? None are good enough for the Kingdom

Primary Practical Point: What should we do? Accept and proclaim grace through the new birth!

Take Home Action: Read 1 John this week. 1 Chapter a Day.

Preach Points:

  1. Church: /What is there in our lives that would cause anyone to say "We know that you are from God, because no one would do ? if not from God." ?
  2. Salvation: / Everyone needs it. Including you.
  3. Mission: / Everyone. Everywhere. Our mission as a church is to "Walk with Jesus and take as many people with us as possible."  WE WILL NOT BE IN THE BUSINESS OF PRESORTING PEOPLE BY RACE, CULTURE, OR LANGUAGE.
  4. Families: / Expect accordingly--even your darling children need the Lord.


Evening Sermon: Everything Stops Joshua 10 (audio)


Primary Theological Point: What should we learn? There is always time for obedience.

Primary Practical Point: What should we do? Commit first to God, obey to the point of exhaustion.

Take Home Action: Put the opening of your schedule in God's hands, every day.


Preach Points:

  1. Obey God and find:
    1. Hailstones to help (v. 11): not always the help you expect or even want, but it comes
    2. Miracles (v. 12): not everything happens logically
    3. Time (v. 13): need more? Obedience provides all the time needed to obey
    4. Success (v. 20): a great slaughter, while unpleasant, was good.
    5. More to do (v 29 ff): The reward for doing well, accomplishing the difficult? More work to do...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Measure Once: Deuteronomy 25

In Summary:

Back to the Old Testament. We’re closing in on being done with the Pentateuch. It feels like 40 years wandering in the wilderness to get this far, but we will make it!

Today’s chapter is Deuteronomy 25. It starts off with instructions about judicial punishments, and finishes with a reminder to eliminate the Amalekites. In between we have the law relating to marrying your brother’s widow and laws about fair dealing in business. It’s a busy chapter.

In Focus:

Finding a focal point here was challenging. After all, with such variety of information I could land just about anywhere. And easily miss something useful.

Let’s put our focus on Deuteronomy 25:13-16. This is a section commanding the Israelites to have a single standard of weights and measures. That’s right.

Weights and measures. Just as we now have a standard “pound,” “cup,” or “gallon,” the Israelites were to keep a stable standard. This is quite beneficial for economic growth, but more than that, it’s fair. Just plain fair. Why?

Because if you did a shekel’s worth of work, you should get a shekel’s worth of pay. And it should not be found out that you went to work for a guy with a shekel that was half the size of his neighbor’s.

It is also worth noting that the context puts this instruction alongside the reminder about the Amalekites picking off the weaker members of Israel during the Exodus. This opens the door to understanding economic fairness as related to defending the weaker members of society—not those who are willfully lazy but those who are “faint and weary” from life’s difficulties.

In Practice:

There are a couple of practical aspects to a commanded standard of weights and measures. First, though, we should notice that God does not command what those measures should be. Only that they should be the same—so the Israelites could have gone Metric if they chose, as long as they were standardized.

The first benefit is one we don’t often associate with the Old Testament. There is a scientific benefit to standard weights and measures. It’s critical to measure and compare for science—be it simple metallurgy (which leads to chemistry) or geography—one needs to know that you have a “mile” that’s just like the next person’s “mile.” Or shekel, mina, etc…

The second benefit is in construction. If you need a pound of concrete per square foot to support the road traffic, that standard should be the same.

Then there is the most obvious: in trade. It’s only fair to know that a pound’s a pound, no matter where you are. (Unless you’re on the Moon.)

Why? Because we ought to deal with all people fairly. And if there is only one measure even in your house, then you have no risk of accidentally defrauding someone. It should be clear through this passage as it is in others, God is concerned with how we treat one another.

Pay attention to that, and do not let a desire for gain destroy your relationships.

In Nerdiness: 

I’ve a pair of nerdy things today.

First, look at the commands to eliminate the Amalekites. Then look at 1 Samuel 15. See the connection from here to King Agag? Now look on at Esther and the enemy of the Jews, Haman the “Agagite.” There are some who draw a connection all the way from here to Haman. I don’t know if that’s truly supportable, but it’s there.

Second, look at the commands about marital law and marrying one’s brother’s widow. See that the instruction for the scorned woman is that she is to take off her brother-in-law’s sandal and spit in his face? Now, look ahead at Ruth 4. Note that the legality regarding marrying Ruth involves a deliberate exchange of sandals. I can’t substantiate it with any documents, but I think there could be legal evolution where what was the shameful punishment for dereliction of duty came to symbolize the willful passing of that duty—if there was a taker.

As to the whole part about cutting off a woman’s hand for grabbing the genitals of a man her husband is fighting with? I’m thinking that’s mainly a warning to just stay out of fights. Perhaps an application is that one may not use ‘any means’ to end a fight that is not fatal. But I’m staying out of that too much…

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sermon Recap for August 9

Another Monday rolls around…we’re trying a new camera angle for recording. You’ll see that for the morning recording. We tried a different file format for the evening and the sound was, well, baaad…I think it was the camera not the sound guy.

Morning Sermon: Clean this up! John 2:13-23 (audio)

Primary Theological Point: What should we learn? God did not put us here to check boxes of details but to worship Him for His grace and mercy.

Primary Practical Point: What should we do? Stop it. All of the focus on the external appearance of Baptistiness and focus on the inward growth of discipleship. Then it will show externally.

Take Home Action: Next Sunday, shift 5 minutes from your appearance preparation and put it into prayer.

Evening Sermon: Joshua 9 (audio)

Primary Theological Point: What should we learn? Critical decisions should be brought before the Lord.

Primary Practical Point: What should we do? Start and finish our days with prayer and listening to God's Word (THE BIBLE, PEOPLE!) so that we are not caught unprepared for decisions.

Take Home Action: Keep your commitments, but be careful in making them.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Book: Questions Jesus Asks

Today's Book is Questions Jesus Asks. This is a follow-up to Israel Wayne's Questions God Asks, published last year. Wayne is a preacher and teacher in the United States.

Now, on to this particular book. Essentially, this is an accessible theology book framed around the Scriptures that record Jesus Himself asking questions. It's a different approach than the standard formula of defining a topic and then going to the text for answers. It strengthens the reader's interest by using this approach.

First, Wayne addresses the big question: Who is Jesus? Why does that matter? From this understanding of the nature of Christ, he goes on to address the other questions.

A moment here to take a brief dip into the idea of all Scripture as the Word of God. Wayne is not presenting that "red-letters" are more important than other letters by focusing on the questions Jesus asked. Instead, he is using these questions as an organizational tool for exploring all of Scripture.

The topics covered run from Christology to Eschatology, but all without being obscure or bizarre. Further, Wayne speaks plainly to the audience and without an edge of superiority.

I found this a helpful book for learning theology by going through a different path, one that helps the reader stay focused. Additionally, I would commend the idea of using this book alongside reading the text as narrative, for a few excursions into what deeper things we can learn from the moments in the story the questions are asked.

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A brief thought on Psalm 23

For tonight at church, I’ve been working through Psalm 23. Some of you, I’m certain, will have already thought about this. It was a new observation for me.

Psalm 23:1 opens with the idea of YHWH as a shepherd. That is, God is personally involved in the well-being and care-taking for His own. In this case, that’s David. A shepherd travels with his sheep, goes wherever they are. It’s a mobile life. Which is great for some people, and for most of us at some time.

Psalm 23:6, though, gives us a different angle on YHWH. Here there is a house to dwell in. Catch the pair of items happening?

On the one hand, wherever you are, God is personally involved in your continued existence and meeting your needs. On the other hand, there is a stable, lasting place that is His. And for His people, that is where they will head forever.

So whether your life is stable or mobile, God is not waiting for you to show up somewhere else. He is right there, ever-present in your life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Listen and Rest: Hebrews 4

In Summary:

Like any good sermon, Hebrews 4 touches on many topics as the author presses forward to the end. We see reminiscences of the Old Testament, again, as the reader is reminded of the rejection of God’s salvation in the Exodus. This theme recurs throughout the opening chapters of Hebrews: God has brought the people out of bondage. Will they stay out in obedience or willfully go back? The choice parallels the choice of the Israelites of the Exodus. There’s no going all the way back, but there is missing the point overall.

The people, then, must make a decision between following in obedience and retreating. The apparent temptation is that going back is restful, easier. But it’s not. Going back is always just that: going backward. God created us to walk forward in obedience, not to step back in fear. Please note that I am not saying that we should not back out of decisions that are not obedient—redeem your errors! I am saying that when God speaks, we either obey or sin.

In Focus:

What, then, should we obey? That’s so often the question I hear. How do I know what to do? How do I know what God has said? It’s a question that is plainly answered in Hebrews 4:12, if we will just heed what is said here. What does that say?

God has given us His word. Not just a static force, carved into walls or tablets, but living and active. If we have the word of God, then there is no debating what God has said to us. There can be discussion of what we do about it, but it is partly for this reason we have the Holy Spirit. It is also for this reason we should remember Hebrews 4:14-16, noting that we can draw near to God for what we need. I would take Hebrews 4:16 as a reminder of Esther to the Hebrew audience, how she had to approach an earthly king with fear for her life, while as believers they could approach the King of All Kings boldly, assured they would receive help.

In Practice:

What does this look like in practice?

First, it looks like being committed to knowing the Word of God. To the best of your abilities, you should know the Word of God. If you are in a line of work, like ministry employment (for lack of a better term,) that enables extended study, you should do that. And you should do that in the original languages, learning how to make plain the truth.

Second, it looks like enabling others to know the Word of God. Focusing on the positive of this, support Bible translation and Bible teaching ministries. Provide for people to study for themselves, and do not block them from learning and digging deeper. Model a thirst for the Word and take others with you.

Third, it looks like separating the wheat from the chaff. That is, recognizing that none of the words of people are equal to the Word of God. Take your pastor, for example, and realize that he may be right and he may not be—but the Word is always right. There are ways of interpreting Scripture and coming up with different conclusions, and we cannot elevate those conclusions to the highest level. A few things that pop to mind are things like whether or not to home school or whether your church should support a large missions force together with others, or just a few that you know personally. These are open for interpretation, don’t allow someone to tell you it’s his way or the highway on chaff issues.

In Nerdiness: 

The first nerd-salvo is in v. 16. Look back at the story of Esther and see how she boldly went before Ahasuerus, but without any assurance that she could even draw near to voice her request. We need not summon even her courage: we are assured that God will allows us to draw near to the throne of grace, and we will receive grace.

From here, do keep in mind that we are still approaching the King, not our Cousin Eddie.

The second nerd-salvo would note the similarity between the names “Joshua” and “Jesus” in Greek. How similar? It’s the same word. Likewise with the assumed Aramaic name for Jesus of “Yeshua.” The choice is made that much more plain: what “Yeshua” did not do in the Old Covenant, “Yeshua” did do with the New Covenant.

Book: Diary of a Jackwagon

Not everything we do has to be deadly serious. One of the main people I rely on to keep me laughing is Tim Hawkins. And, for the first time ever, Tim has written a book!

As a fan, I knew what to expect. This a short-chapter paperback that mainly holds Tim’s comedy in written form. The stories and jokes are funny, and considering I’ve got most of them memorized, I can even hear Hawkins as one of the thousand voices in my head as I read this book. (Whether that’s good or bad, my pshrink won’t say!)

While this predictability is an asset to the tome, Diary of a Jackwagon contains a few things I had never heard. Much of it is backstory either of Hawkins’ life or the longer version of humor that doesn’t fit in a video presentation. These parts were the better parts of the book, mostly due to their freshness.

Honestly, though, what are we expecting? It’s funny, it’s Tim-clean, and it’s worth $10 to have something fun to read from time to time. It takes almost no extra brain power to read, but it also doesn’t numb you to the realities of life.

All-in-all, it’s exactly what you would expect. Unless for some reason you think Tim Hawkins is a stage name for D.A. Carson or Dan Wallace (heavy-duty Biblical scholar dudes). In which case, you might have thought there was depth. There isn’t.

Just good clean fun.

Free book from Booklook. It was worth every penny.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Book: Every Child Welcome

The first time I heard someone mention special needs children in church, it was accompanied by a long list of “Don’t ever do XXXX again!” The commandments to the church were accompanied by a list of things to instruct parents of other kids to never do at church and to make sure their children never did. In short, it made ministry with special needs children sound like a lugging a burden through a minefield, where “survival” was the only hope.

As a pastor, that’s not the approach that seemed best to me at the time. Every Child WelcomeIt still seems like a terrible approach. After all, God’s people are not all of one shape, size, and ability group. If we cannot flourish as the church by welcoming all people, then we have something wrong. Then I was offered Every Child Welcome through Kregel Academic and Ministry for review. Given how hard it was to pick one book to start with, I viewed this as a godsend for learning better first steps.

I was right. Katie Wetherbee and Jolene Philo, both long-term educators, present a concise look at how all children can be welcomed and celebrated in church. Rather than presenting a burdensome batch of “do/don’ts,” they give strategies to try out.

Some of these strategies are generic—after all, Wetherbee and Philo don’t know who you’re ministering to—which is fine. Given that many readers of Every Child Welcome are, like me, not qualified to make highly specific diagnoses, we should be looking at broadly usable ideas. From there, the more specific strategies recommended come into play.

The most valuable information here is what should be the most obvious. The authors give some clear guidelines about how to communicate about children’s behavior which helps keep it edifying and private as appropriate. If your church leadership hasn’t learned yet to keep behavior challenges off of social media, you need to teach that lesson right quick. For all ages. (And yes, I must admit to having failed at that in younger dumber years.)

Further, Every Child Welcome provides resources for further study. It’s a great intro work, and ideal for a pastor who wants to launch a church in the right direction, not just making a separate space for special needs kids but enfolding all of God’s people in the church.

Free book from Kregel Academic in exchange for the review.

Sermon Recap for August 2

Morning Sermon: “Signs” John 2:1-12 (audio)



Evening Sermon: “Directions” Joshua 6 (audio)

Sermon from May 19 2024

 Good morning! Yesterday we talked about Simon Magus. Didn't actually hit on the sin of simony, because we don't really see it that ...