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Showing posts from October, 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 od…

Book: The Carols of Christmas

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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 th…

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…

Sermon Recap from October 25

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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!

Shaken and Consumed: Hebrews 12

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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…

Book: Uninvested

Uninvested promises on the cover to show you how "Wall Street hijacks your money" AND "how to fight back."The first premise is one that few of us would likely dispute. Monks, with Jaffe and Lacasse, help demonstrate *how* and document cases, but there is really nothing surprising about this idea. While the overall evidence is that neither regulations nor industry "safeguards" really help, they do not advocate tearing them down. Admittedly, I think differently and recognize that there will always be more money in the private sector than in government and that greed will out rather than true regulation.Still, the definite evidence presented helps clear the fog about how well the government regulates. It doesn't. And to keep clear this: money managers make a living, whether they make you a lot of money or not. Further, Monks advocates strongly for being a better educated investor. I am all for it--and personally would suggest that less regulation would a…

Book: A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

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Yep, it’s a long title. And a short book. Actually, not that short. It comes in at 416 pages but the paper is quite thin, creating a very trim size hardcover.The book itself, A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament (hereafter something like “The Commentary”) presents not only the differing manuscript readings throughout the New Testament (in canonical order) but also discusses which readings seem most likely. There are also notes on where some manuscripts have used devices such as nomen sacrum (a marker for sacred names) and potential explanations for various manuscript development. In short, Comfort attempts to explain many of the variants that are often footnoted in newer translations and also to highlight important facts lost in the realities of translations. It is a highly academic work. The first two chapters will orient the reader to the issues involved in textual criticism, but one definitely needs to be read-up in Greek to truly benefit from what’s going …

Sermon Recap: October 18

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Good afternoon! Here are the sermons from Sunday, October 18.First, the sermon archive is linked here.Morning Sermon: Worship! John 4 (audio download)Evening Message: Introduction to Leviticus (audio download)

Rearranging Life

It’s another Monday morning. I’m here, at my desk, in my study, watching back through yesterday’s sermons. I’m sorting through a pile of stuff that’s on my desk—which I don’t know where half of it came from—and then another call comes in that a fellow church member has lost a family member.Making the number 3 from yesterday until today. Folks, if your life is consumed with budgets and calendars and things, rearrange it a bit. There are people that you love and people that love you. Spend some time. Make some time.

NOISE!

Noise. Lots of noise.
That's my first review of the new outlet mall in Little Rock. There is a lot of noise there. True, great bargains ($17 put 3 new pairs of boy's jeans and 1 new pair of dad jeans in the house!), but overall the place was noisy and chaotic.
Yet it wasn't just there which was noisy. We went from the outlet mall over to David's Burgers (excellent burgers. Too many fries for the new pants to fit). It was noisy as all get out in there, too. And then it dawned on me...Kroger was noisy earlier. So are many other places.
It's not really the shopping plazas of this world that are the centers of the noise. It's really our lives. We live noisy, always needing something in the background, more than many of us would want to admit. For some reason, we need the noise. It shields us from intimacy, for one thing. And it keeps our minds from focusing, from thinking through life around us.
How does the noise shield us from intimacy? Quite frankly, there is j…

Book: Seven Women and the Secret of their Greatness

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Today's book is a follow-up to the book I reviewed here. I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Seven lives. Spread across history, starting with Joan of Arc and ending with Rosa Parks, 7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness is an introductory biography. Obviously too short to be an in-depth look at any of their lives, the chapter length looks get past the one-sentence summary that we often get.

First, of course, one could look at how Metaxas chose the women to feature. History has not always been balanced in recording the lives of women and men. As such, writing a biography can be very difficult if you go looking too far back. There's just not the source material. Metaxas' choice of Joan of Arc is understandable, given the records that are available about her. Beyond that, he's chosen women from the Enlightenment Age onward.

Additionally, it was his choice to include women who excelled at whatever they did, rather than seeking the ones…

Faith Shows Out: Hebrews 11

In Summary:

We come to the most famous portion of the book of Hebrews: the “Faith Hall of Fame” chapter. Throughout Hebrews 11, our author recounts story snippet after story snippet of those who have walked with God in past times. Each one is mentioned, briefly, and summarized as having faith in some way or another. Particularly telling is the inclusion of multiple women, both named and unnamed. This reflects a willingness on the part of the early church to recognize the contributions of both sexes to the heritage of faith.

Also telling, as we contemplate the writing of Hebrews, is that the list stops with examples from the time of the Judges (ending with Samuel, the last judge) and then switches to a summary. Even the listing of names from Judges is prefaced with “time will fail me…” in Hebrews 11:32. What does that tell us? That the author is a preacher of some sort, seeing how he goes on for another 8 verses, approximately 20% of the chapter, after he says time is failing. It’s the g…

Sermon Recap for October 11

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I’m swapping my podcast host for the church’s web service. This will keep all the sermons in one place and save me some money at the same time. Let me know if it’s working or not! The sermon index and player is here.Morning Sermon: The Needs of Sinners,  John 4 (direct download)Evening Sermon: The Lord’s Supper (direct download)

How to find simplicity when your life is far too complicated—a guest post from Dr. Michael Nichols

Note: I have learned from (and leaned on) Dr. Nichols for leadership ideas for several years. He’s not just a face on the Internet, but one I’ve seen and trust.Have you ever noticed those people who seem to have it all together? You look at their work and they have all these cool things going on. They're successful, they're making things happen. You look at their family and they seem to have rich, full relationships. They're connecting well with one another. They even have great connections and healthy interactions with you. So you think - How do you keep all the plates spinning? How did you become productive? How are you able to shift from productivity and tasks into highly-relational moments with ease? And how are you connecting with people in such a way that their lives and their work are dramatically improving as a result of their interactions with you - your influence in their life? And it's that simplification of leadership that we see in them that is critical. W…

Book: The Methuselah Project: A Novel

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What do you do with someone who does not age, and would only die under certain specific conditions? What would that life be like? These are the bigger questions found in Rick Barry’s The Methuselah Project: A Novel. (The “A Novel” part is necessary because there is already, apparently, another book with The Methuselah Project as its title. I digress.)Barry’s not writing philosophy, though, so you experience those questions in the narrative of the life of a man. A man who simply had his duty set before him, and then it all went wrong. That man is Roger Greene.This is a fairly straight forward science fiction/thriller novel. Is the science plausible? Possibly, though Barry is vague enough on the science that you realize it’s fictional. Then you have the thriller elements as Greene approaches the new world he lives in.I was surprised at the smaller number of fish-out-of-water moments for Greene. The focus was more on the survival/action of the moment. Which is a fine focus. It just wasn’…

Fight the Shrink! Hebrews 10

In Summary:

Hebrews goes on, speaking of our need for one sacrifice, and one sacrifice only. Through the course of Hebrews 10, the author returns to the shortfalls of annual animal sacrifices. First by highlighting that the conscience isn’t really salved by such sacrifices, and then moving on to showing where God Himself expressed that animals aren’t good enough for Him.

Instead, our intrepid author (who continues to be Apollos. Or Luke. Or Barnabas.) brings the Psalms back and focuses on the supremacy of Christ. Which, despite Hebrews having some excellent things to say about faith and obedience, really is the focus of the book as a whole. The supremacy of Christ to all to other gods, revelations, or sacrifices, and therefore our only viable option is to place our obedient faith in Jesus.

This is reinforced by the “new and living way” to enter the presence of God (Hebrews 10:20,) which is through Jesus. Prior to this, the apparent way into the presence of God was through a pile of bodi…

Sermon Recap for October 4

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Apologies for the hum on the video. It’s not the camera. It’s the way the sound system was set up. I have fixed it. I will be telling the sound guys to leave it alone, because it is now fixed. The evening is just flat unwatchable. The morning’s not much better.Morning Sermon: John 4:1-6 “The Needs of Jesus” (audio)Evening Sermon: Exodus Part II, Tabernacle and the Passover (audio)

Monday Reflections

Looking back across the last week, a few thoughts for you today:1. Somewhere, somehow, there is a reasonable response to violence in our country. However, it’s got to make more sense than both “let’s dump more firearms everywhere” and “let’s take all the firearms away from everyone” do. Why? Because the latter is impossible—unless you’re prepared for house-to-house searches by law enforcement, because those of us who are law abiding enough to consider voluntary turn-ins aren’t likely to be the ones that commit mass violence. The former is almost as nutsy—true, a good person with a gun confronting a murderer is effective. *If* that good person is equipped to handle the situation. This excludes any one who thinks that they can make a 50 yard pistol shot in a crowd and only hit the bad guy, even though they haven’t fired their weapon in six months.Folks, it’s hard enough to stabilize a rifle and shoot a deer. Factor in the adrenaline of a deadly situation and factor out the training that…

One and Done: Hebrews 9

In Summary:

Hebrews 9 begins with a reminder of the Tabernacle and the regulations for worship of the One True God. We see the continued reference to the Tabernacle more than the Temple here, including a rare New Testament reminder of the Ark of the Covenant. Rather than focusing on these (or telling us where the Ark is at this point!), our author links the formality of worship in the Tabernacle with the ceremonial regulations found in the Old Testament law. The conclusion, though, is that the conscience is not satisfied by these practices because God is not finally satisfied by these practices.

Ultimately, the new high priest had to come. First, He had to take the first covenant to its fulfillment. Then He entered into something better and greater than the Tabernacle. He entered into the holy place, once for all, to bring His people into a place of eternal redemption. The Tabernacle, while impressive, was a shadow at the beginning and became superfluous by the end. If the Tabernacle is…