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)

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 ...