Monday, December 26, 2016

Sermon Recap for December 25

Well, it’s the last sermons of the year. Here is the complete Christmas Eve service (it was filmed from the balcony with the condenser mic, so the sound is a bit different) and then Sunday morning’s sermon.

 

December 25 AM (Audio) Matthew 1

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's not about the Signs: Matthew 24

In Summary:
Jesus leaves the Temple, after lamenting that Jerusalem’s “house is being left…desolate” (Matthew 23:38). As He does this, the disciples point out the Temple buildings. Given that Jesus had been there more than once or twice, it is likely the implication is one of highlighting the impressive nature of the structure. Jesus is, well, not impressed. He is well aware of the future of the building. Not one stone will be left another (24:2).

The disciples are, understandably, distressed by this statement. As a result, they ask Jesus about when these events will occur. The answer from Jesus is not nearly as comforting as most of us would like. He describes a world that begins falling apart, tribulations, and judgment. Not exactly a pleasant picture.

The chapter closes out with a reminder to be ready because we do not know the day and the hour when Jesus returns. Actually, let us be very specific. He states it this way: “you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42, emphasis added). While other lords, like Caesar or Presidents, schedule their visits in advance, Jesus does not. There will be signs along the way, but they may be ambiguous.

In Focus:
The focal point of the chapter is Matthew 24:45-46, where Jesus highlights the need to be ready for His return. All the rest, while relevant, supports these two verses which address the disciples’ question from verse 3. Jesus’ return will be preceded by many signs and many false Messiahs, but then He will show up when He is not expected.

And judgment will fall. The more commonly cited parts of this passage, such as the idea of one man in a field, one taken, one left—the one who is “taken” is taken to judgment. Jesus provides this context around His statements, as He highlights the blessing on the slave who is doing the work he should be doing. That should remind us of our priority. After all, the obedient slave is honoring his Master, not calendaring his Master’s return.

In Practice:
What, then, does this look like?

First, it is a warning to many of us Bible nerd types. Yes, there are signs that will warn of Jesus’ return. No, it’s not our job to figure them out. And besides, what part of “coming at an hour when you do not think He will) (v. 24)” do we not understand? If we took all the energy expended in setting dates and poured it into evangelism and missions, amazing things might happen.

Second, it looks like a lifetime of obedience. Be ready? How? By consistently serving the master.

Third, it looks like a lifetime of service and compassion to others. Note that verses 48-50 highlight one of the not-to-dos: mistreatment of our fellow slaves. How are we behaving toward our fellow servants of Jesus?

Fourth, it looks like a lifetime of proclaiming the Kingdom. There is coming a day when the King comes back. When He does, all nations, all peoples will see Him (v. 30). What will be the response to His glory? Weeping by so many, but salvation for those who believe. How, though, can they believe in Him they have not heard (Romans 10:10)? Get to work, Church. The day is coming.

In Nerdiness: 
There is, of course, nerdiness to be found in trying to sort out the signs. One must keep in mind that the judgment on the Temple came through in AD 70, and so some of these signs related to that event. Same with some of the other warned events—they are about the collapse of Judea as a Roman province.

Another nerd point is a translation comparison in 24:41. “Two women will be grinding” is probably the most “literal” way to translate the phrase, but the verb carries the idea of “grinding grain,” and so “grinding at the mill” is accurate. It just uses more words.

Third, embedded in this text is the warning to watch for false claims of Jesus’ return. And that miracles and signs will accompany the false Messiahs. Actions don’t tell all..truth matters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Book: The Message of the Twelve

I will admit it: I’m way behind on book reviews. I’ve had this handy volume from B&H for a couple of months. Sorry about that.

The Minor Prophets. Those twelve pesky short books at the end of the Old Testament. You know which ones I’m talking about---the part of your ‘read through the Bible in a year’ plan that you dread the most. Why do we read these? Apart from Micah 5:2 and maybe Malachi 3, do we even have sermons about them?

A good step in fixing this neglect is found in Richard Alan Fuhr & Gary E. Yates’ The Message of the Twelve. The authors dig into the Minor Prophets and help us see how God uses this portion of inspired Scripture even to this day.

First, the work explains why all twelve are treated together. This grouping is also called the Book of the Twelve, and they should not be treated as unified only by their size. The first section of The Message of the Twelve addresses why one should study all of these together as well as the separate books.

I found this a bit more helpful than the second section, which dealt with each book. Why? It’s not that the individual prophet books are not valuable, but there is nothing in Obadiah as a standalone book that can’t be gleaned elsewhere.

But understanding the overall context and considering the idea that God inspired the collection as well as the writing, it makes more sense. Obadiah, or Haggai, or Habakkuk, in context not only historically but literarily helps tremendously.

Each book of the twelve Minor Prophets is also examined. This includes the standard author, date, and purpose that one expects in a Bible survey. It also delves somewhat into contemporary application. That area is a tad short, but that’s to my liking. Too much printed application keeps the little gray cells from working hard and making application connected to where we are.

This is a great start to understanding the Book of the Twelve. I’d put it ahead of even a general Old Testament Survey type book for dealing with the Minor Prophets.

Book received in exchange for review.

Sermon Recap for December 18 2016

Good morning! Here is Sunday morning’s sermon. Sunday night was the community choir event at East Union, so we dismissed our services so those who wanted to could participate.

December 18 AM: Revelation 12 (audio here)


Saving Christmas

Saving Christmas

Doug Hibbard / General

Revelation 12

 

Christmas is in Danger


Not from Abominable Snowmen or Hidden Clauses


Not from Happy Holiday-wielding Businesses


Not from the ACLU


Or from the...."them." Whoever "Them" might be


The Real Dangers:


1. Satan (defeated)


2. False religion


3. World Oppression


4. Silent Witnesses


5. Us. The church.

 

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 8:15 AM December 20, 2016.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Spies and Promises: Joshua 2

In Summary:
After an interlude when Joshua is commissioned to take command, the narrative story of Israel continues with Joshua 2. Joshua sends two spies into Jericho to check out the situation. Then, things get exciting.

Overall, this chapter is worthy of a good action movie. You have a secret mission into foreign territory. Your spies make it as far as an inn at the edge of town, where they are found out. The king (keep in mind, kings ruled over cities in that era) sends word to the innkeeper to hand over the spies. She doesn’t. Instead, she hides them, deceives the king, and helps the enemies of her nation escape. There’s enough intrigue for a thriller.

And then you have the potential scandal, as shown in the labeling of Rahab as a harlot or prostitute (see NASB and ESV in Joshua 2:1). The word and grammar here are vague enough to suggest that Rahab was, at times, engaged in such a profession but that she was also an innkeeper. Without getting too nerdy here, I have seen some commentary that suggests Rahab is possibly a war widow who did not remarry and instead held her own business and property. The ancient world was not flooded with high morals, and inns were commonly involved in both above-board and below-sheet businesses.

So, there is no certainty that the spies stop specifically for a rendezvous. Just as you can stay at the Holiday Inn without joining the karaoke kookiness, even being unaware of it, our spies may be innocent. They stopped at a well-traveled location.

Which is probably why they got found out. Rahab hides them, misdirects the king, and then helps them escape. Basic spy-movie plot, with a few lovely ladies involved and the real solution coming from an outsider.

In Focus:
We should not leave this passage without putting the promise to Rahab by the spies in focus. First, we see her plea in Joshua 2:9-14. She recognizes the God of Israel, called here by His covenant name, as greater than any other god. She confesses that the people of Jericho know they will be defeated, and here she chooses to side with God.

And, therefore, she sides with Israel. Her fear of God exceeds her fear of her king—even though the king could have had her killed. Her fear of God drives her.

Then, we need to consider the behavior of the spies. They promise Rahab that they will deliver her when the Israelites come and destroy everyone else. That sounds great. After she has gotten them out of the jam, they note that their promise came with strings attached. Well, one string, literally: if she did not tie a scarlet thread in her window, their promise would be nullified.

In Practice:
We can find some easy application here. First of all, let your fear of God be greater than your fear of man. That will drive many changes in your actions, won’t it? Did you vote because you feared what your neighbor would do? Or what a “foreigner” might do? Or did you vote because of your belief in God-honoring right and wrong?

What about work? Do you work like your boss depends on you or like you are a servant of God? As you plan your future, who do you seek to serve most? Yourself, or God?

A second application is unfortunate: be wary of people who make promises under stress. Like the spies did to Rahab, they may attach an escape clause to their word. That does not line up with Jesus’ commands to us (Matthew 5:37). So, believers in Jesus should not do such a thing. But be aware of others, and keep in mind that not all “stress” is immediate death. If he “promises” he’ll go to church after you marry him…if someone “promises” they’ll change if you only do this, realize that the stress is promising. Not the person’s character.

In Nerdiness: 
1. Innkeeper/harlot: that’s a big discussion for history. It should be noted that Rahab is someone pushed to the margins of her society. She lives in the wall, for cryin’ out loud. The king wants to use her, apparently men in town use her, and even the spies use her. But if you trace her heritage, she becomes a part of the people of God. God uses those that society pushes aside.

2. The lying. That’s a problem, for Jesus is the truth, right? What do we do with this? I think it was Kissinger or Nixon who observed that a “lie is an abomination to the Lord, and a very present help in time of trouble.” We are to be people of the truth, but what about in dealing with life and death? God uses Rahab’s lie. That does not mean we should actively deceive, but can the affairs of nations take place completely openly?

3. Sending the spies. Joshua said in Joshua 1:11 that the people would go in 3 days….then he sends the spies and that takes 3 days. Plus, things didn’t go so well the last time Israel spied out the land. (See Numbers 13 and here). Does he delay? Or does the narrative retelling deal with overlapping time? Either way, it was risky but, in the long run, it worked out this time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book: Martin Luther

Please note, the book is a biography of Martin Luther. I’m not reviewing Martin Luther. Also, today’s book was provided by Cross Focused Reviews.

Some years ago, a blog tour first brought the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series into our home. Now, they have become a fixture in our learning processes.

The most recent entry in this series is Martin Luther. (Isn’t nice how easy it is to title a biography?) Simonetta Carr has again provided more information in 64 pages than one would have thought possible.

First, she does an excellent job providing an overview of the complicated situation of the sixteenth century, including the selling of indulgences by the Church at the time. Carr’s summary uses some terms that are anachronistic (I doubt Luther considered his work to go “viral,” p. 22,) but these terms make plain the meaning.

Second, the history reads like I am familiar with from much more in-depth books. For a 64-page children’s biography, the detail is excellent and, more importantly, accurate. I would love to see a footnote or two (and, since it’s a children’s book, I’d take an endnote) with more information about a few details.

I would love to see a bit more about Luther’s later life, but I know that the managing and leading of the Reformation gets into some minutiae that does not read well for children. The ending few pages work through a series of paragraphs giving insights into his later life.

Of great terror to me is the presence of Albrecht Durer in this biography. Well, not really, but I had to translate Durer’s biography for German last term and he still makes me twitch. It is good to know how all of those personalities connected. And Durer’s life is fascinating, though I’d like it English a bit better. :)

In all, I highly recommend not only Martin Luther but the entire series.

Hardcover, well printed, good-feeling paper. 64 pages from Reformation Heritage Books.

Book received in exchange for the review.

Sermon Recap for Dec 12

Good morning! Here is Sunday morning’s sermon. Sunday night was a bit less structured than it normally is…so it’s not here.

Sermon: John 1:1-5 (audio here)

 


Unconquerable Light

Unconquerable Light

Doug Hibbard / General

John 1:1–5

 

John 1:1-5


John 1:1–5 NASB95

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    He was in the beginning with God.
    All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
    In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
   The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The  darkness   around  us


The  darkness   before  us


The  darkness   beneath  us


The  darkness   within  us


The  Light   above  us


The  Light    around  us


The  Light   beside  us


The  Light   dwelling  in us


Do I have the Light of Christ?


Am I sharing the Light of Christ?


Am I blocking the Light of Christ?


  Actions


  Attitudes


  Aggressive or Passive?


Darkness cannot understand the Light. It cannot defeat, seize it, take over it. Light always wins.


A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition καταλαμβάνω
καταλαμβάνω


1. To make something one's own, to win, to attain


2. To gain control of someone through pursuit, catch up with, seize

 

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 8:49 AM December 13, 2016.

 


Unconquerable Light

Unconquerable Light

Doug Hibbard / General

John 1:1–5

 

John 1:1-5


John 1:1–5 NASB95

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    He was in the beginning with God.
    All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
    In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
    The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

 

 


The  darkness   around  us


The  darkness   before  us


The  darkness   beneath  us


The  darkness   within  us


The  Light   above  us


The  Light    around  us


The  Light   beside  us


The  Light   dwelling  in us


Do I have the Light of Christ?


Am I sharing the Light of Christ?


Am I blocking the Light of Christ?


  Actions


  Attitudes


  Aggressive or Passive?


Darkness cannot understand the Light. It cannot defeat, seize it, take over it. Light always wins.


A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition καταλαμβάνω
καταλαμβάνω


1. To make something one's own, to win, to attain


2. To gain control of someone through pursuit, catch up with, seize

 

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 8:49 AM December 13, 2016.

No comments:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Woe There! Matthew 23

In Summary:
As we reach Matthew 23, Jesus is no longer taking questions from the Pharisees and other religious leaders of Israel. He isn’t asking them questions, either. He begins to directly address their sinful behavior and the destruction they have wreaked on the people of Israel.

It is noteworthy that His first comments are not directed to the scribes and Pharisees. His first statements are directed to the crowd. Jesus does not take the religious leaders aside and rebuke them privately or calmly. He warns the people who the religious leaders are trying to lead. (I’m fairly certain that there are implications of this for modern religious leaders who need rebuking. Uncomfortable implications.) The primary warning to the crowd is that they should not become like their leaders.

He tells the crowd that their teachers are saying admirable things, but that their lives are not worth following (v. 3). He then goes on to present the right approach to the Kingdom of Heaven: service and sacrifice. The “woes” that follow highlight specific instances of the destructive lives of the religious leaders of the day and the conclusion of the chapter is a lament over Jerusalem, the city that has been kept from Him by these same leaders.

In Focus:
Rather than break down just one verse, take the passage of woes into focus. Jesus draws out specific problems with the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees. The general form of each woe works like this: you know what you should do, but you have created a loophole and destroyed the worth of what you are doing.

Take Matthew 23:16 as an example. The religious leaders knew they should keep their vows, but cut themselves a loophole: vowing by the Temple did not really count. You had to vow by the gold. Now, I have no historical evidence to consult, but I wonder whether or not it was common knowledge that they cut such a division among their vows? In other words, did the people who heard them make loud and proud vows by the Temple or the altar realize that they were meaningless words?

Perhaps the crowds did know this, but I have my suspicions that they did not.

In all, what the scribes and Pharisees had done was build requirements for others while easing their own lifestyle.

In Practice:
Where do we start with this, in practice? First things first: the Kingdom does not belong to any earthly religious leader. Not by a long shot, not though they be a committee, a coalition, a convention, or a council. The Kingdom belongs to only One, and He makes the decisions (v. 10 is the clearest).

Second, what constraints do we who are “spiritual” put on others? What boundaries do we put between those who are away from God and knowing Him? In some cases, we create a legalism that does not save but certainly makes people behave like good folks. The problem being that then their trust goes into their works, not their Savior. We gather those who will give and fund ministries faithfully, even fanatically, but have we taught justice and mercy? Do we reach out to a business owner for a large donation without considering the impact on the workers who helped the profits to be there?

Third, we need to consider the effect of our behavior on those around us. Everyone in Jerusalem was not guilty of killing the prophets and wise men and scribes Jesus speaks of in verse 34. Yet everyone faced judgment for following the leaders who did. If we lead, let us bear in mind that blocking people from God has consequences and learn to get out of the way. If you are not a leader in that sense, realize this: through the Word of God, you can know God personally and directly. Do so.

In Nerdiness: 
A few nerdy-points:
1. Matthew 23:35 looks to us English-speakers like Jesus is naming prophets from “A-to-Z” with the reference to Abel and Zechariah. That’s quaint and not exactly accurate. Instead, consider the divisions of the Jewish Scriptures, that Genesis is first (where Abel is murdered) and 2 Chronicles (where Zechariah is murdered) is last. It’s a first-to-last mention, and it works as “A-to-Z” in English, but it’s more likely a reference to the whole of Jewish Canon, what we call the Old Testament.

2. While I hesitate to say that we shouldn’t take something literally, I think there is a cultural gap between 23:9 and now, and that one can call someone on earth “father.” Typically, I would suggest that your “father” is either clear on your birth certificate or clear in your heart if he’s not on the paper. I think we have a case here where Jesus is reminding them not to seek or demand titles, but to focus on honoring God.

3. Remember that Matthew 23:39 is stated after the Triumphal Entry. “See” here is about perception and engagement with the Messianic work of Jesus—this was the last time, in Matthew’s recording, that Jesus freely stood in the midst of the crowd and taught them.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sermon Recap for December 4

Merry Christmas! I know, we have three more Sundays until Christmas, but I like this time of year.

Sunday Morning Sermon: Isaiah 53 (audio)

 

Sunday evening was our annual budget business meeting. We voted to increase our financial involvement in mission work as well as maintaining our partnership level with the Southern Baptist Convention.

I did share a few thoughts on Matthew 1. And I can’t find where I put the SD card with the video. When I find it, you’ll see it.

 

Remember our Christmas Eve service is coming up on December 24 at 6:30 PM.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

At the Feast: Matthew 22

In Summary:

Remember, first of all, that this chapter of Matthew falls within the Passion Week, the last week of the earthly life of Christ. (Ever consider how it is to describe a time-limited event for the Eternal Son of God? It’s not really the “last week of the life of Christ, because He’s eternal, but it’s the last earthly week, except for when He come back at the end of time….)

That this chapter falls into the Passion Week brings us important context for our understanding. There are no more tours of Galilee or the Decapolis. Matthew records no more miracles performed after this point. These are the closing teachings of Jesus. We read here the parable of the wedding feast, which we’ll look at more in a moment. We also see Jesus address paying taxes with the statement that even the hyper-liberal Jesus Seminar decided had to be Him, “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) We also see Jesus rebuke the Sadducees for not believing in the reality of the resurrection of the dead, and a revisit of the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?”

The chapter wraps up with Jesus asking a question, which the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the lawyers are unable to answer. And at this point, they stop trying to trap Him. Of course, they shift focus to killing Him, but that’s another discussion.

In Focus:

Let us put the parable of the wedding feast in focus today. First, Jesus tells similar parables at other times, like Luke 14:15-24. This parable aligns the Kingdom of Heaven with an image the people would have been familiar with: a royal wedding feast. (He does this again in Revelation 19:6-9). Based on various sources (like the New American Commentary Matthew volume by Craig Blomberg), Jesus’ hearers would have associated the king with God Almighty. This was typical in the rabbinic traditions as well as fitting with a Christ-centered examination of the parable.

The son, then, is Jesus. The identification of these two parties in the parable is fairly easy. What we are left with is understanding who the rest of the characters are. There are the slaves who are sent out and rejected, the slaves who are sent out and attacked, the slaves who go out to gather guests from the highways and hedges, and then there are the guests. There are the invited guests who refuse to come, the invited guests who respond violently, and the surprise guests who do come. Oh, and that one guy who gets thrown out. Each of these groups stands for something, and possibly multiple somethings. Who is he? (Other than an add-in to keep anyone from being certain they have Jesus completely figured out?)

First, the slaves in their various groupings. Who are they? A good argument can be made that the slaves of the King stand for the prophets of old. I think that fits easily, for we see in other places that the prophets served God by calling others to Him. It is also true that Israel, as a nation, was to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 60 gives us a hint of that). To that extent, they are part of that group of slaves. The ones who tried to live according to the Word of God were part of the invitation to the nations, including their own people.

Then there are the guests. First you have the invited guests who just don’t care enough to respond. There are plenty of people like that, and at times you or I may even slide into that group if we are not mindful. Then you have the invited guests who respond violently to the invitation—these are destroyed in the wrath of the king and show those who will face the wrath of Almighty God. Finally, you have those who come in. The hall is filled with the good and the bad (and probably the ugly). One guest, though, has come in on his terms rather than in accordance with the king’s invitation. He gets the boot.

In Practice:

The first practical step is to get this through our heads: we are neither the King nor the Son. We do not, therefore, set the attendance rules for the wedding banquet. God sets that. We do not choose who gets in or who is kept out—if God has set a limit to those who believe in Jesus, then that sticks. No matter what.

The second practical step is to accept the invitation. Our pride is our greatest foe here: we weren’t the “worthy” ones initially invited. So what? If I was the backup guest for table at the Nobel Prize banquet, I’d take it in a heartbeat. Would you not take front-row, center seats at the Grand Ole Opry if they were the gift of grace from someone? (If not, seek help immediately). That we are invited now by the slaves of God to come to the feast means we should take the invitation rather than cast aspersions on His grace. Who are these slaves? Read the opening lines of Paul, Peter, or James…they are the “slave of Christ.”

Finally, take the practical step of bringing others with you to the banquet. There is an abundance of grace there, and the hall is not yet full. Take someone with you to Jesus.

In the process, though, be sure to come as the King commands rather than to try and take it all your way. You cannot stay even if you do sneak in. And I like what Gregory the Great (6th Century) suggests the garment is: love. Love for the King of Kings and love for our fellow man.

In Nerdiness:

Above, I mentioned the “Jesus Seminar.” This was a group that met and attempted to determine what Jesus really said…using their own logic for eliminating some sayings of Christ. If I remember my reading about it (it was the 90s, so it’s been a while), the one phrase that was unambiguously Jesus was Matthew 21:21, “Redner to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God, that which is God’s.” Why this? Because no Jew would have wanted to pay Caesar, and neither would the church later in its political power. So, a command to pay taxes and tithes seemed to them the one thing Jesus definitely said.

Now, first of all, I think Jesus pretty much said everything the Gospels have Him saying. The “pretty much” comes from Greek’s lack of quotation marks, meaning that some places could be summarized speech rather than direct quotes.

Leaving that aside, let’s consider the idea of that one saying. Jesus says Caesar can have what’s his after calling for a coin and asking “whose likeness” is on the coin.

Now, in whose likeness are people?

Caesar can have the pocket change. Leave your pennies at Lincoln’s feet. But humanity? We belong to God.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Book: StarStruck

Yes, I do still plan to maintain the blog. And even hope to post to it from time to time :)

Space. The Final Frontier. Well, those words aren’t exactly mine, but they are words I grew up with and love as a description of the skies above us. While I remember being fascinated by Jacques Cousteau and the underwater world, space was where I wanted to sea, study, and be… (still willing to pastor First Baptist Church, Lunar Rock, The Moon). Into that space-fascination comes today’s book, Star Struck, by Dr. David Bradstreet and Steve Rabey. Dr. Bradstreet has a Ph.D. in astronomy, which would support his qualification to write about space. Rabey’s background is church history, which is relevant…how?

In this manner: one of the goals of Star Struck is to deal with the supposed conflict between Christian faith and scientific work. Rabey provides some good background information on the interaction between the church in history and scientific exploration. The collaboration does an excellent job explaining the debacle that was the treatment of Galileo, for example, and how Christianity as a whole is not against studying the skies with honesty and integrity.

Overall, this is a good read. Bradstreet’s insights into astronomy are educational. The additional benefits of pointing toward the Creator in the process are evident. I do wish he would take my side about Pluto, but I guess it’s just not a planet after all…

As the astronomy in a theology text needs to be double-checked, so I would caution that some aspects of the theology in an astronomy book might be different from one’s background. Bradstreet and Rabey are in agreement about the Sovereign Creator God, but their views may not line up with yours. It’s still worth reading—let your thoughts be challenged!

I have enjoyed reading this. I handed it off to all three of my students—15, 13, and 10—and they all enjoyed it as well.

A good add to the shelf!

 

I did receive a copy of this book from Booklook.

Sermon Recap for November 28

Happy beginning of Advent to you all! Here is the Sunday morning sermon from November 27 and the Thanksgiving service sermon. Sunday night didn’t film out well, so it’s not here.

Tuesday night Thanksgiving Service

 

Sunday Morning: Isaiah 40 (audio here)

 


Joy--Advent 2016

Isaiah 40


Joy in  Chaos


  Remember where they are


  Remember the height from which they have fallen


Joy in  Opposition


  Consider Isaiah's life


  Consider Hezekiah's life


Joy in  Sacrifice


  Not to false idols


  Not cheaply


Comfort in  the King


  The King who leads forth the stars


  The King who holds the oceans


Comfort in the  King's Message


  The Unfailing Word


  The Everlasting Word


Comfort in the  King's Arrival


  The Messiah is coming!


  Prepare Ye the Way!


What of your life is ready for the King?


What of your life is surrendered to the King?


What of your next 5 weeks would change?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sermon Recap for November 13

Well, it’s Thursday afternoon. And I’m just now getting this done. Partly because of insanely slow Internet service. Partly because stuff had to get done. I’m hopeful that the craziest part of the week is over.

Since the bulk of the week is over, that is.

Sunday Morning: The Longest War (audio here) Ephesians 6:10-17

(Outline and notes are after the evening video, just scroll down.)

Sunday Evening: Ephesians 6:18-20 and Q&A (Audio here)

On Sunday nights, we typically take some time to do Bible questions and answers. That is in the video but not the audio. I think I repeated the questions well enough to understand what was going on.

 


The Longest War

The Longest War

Doug Hibbard / General

Ephesians 6:10–17

 

Ephesians 6:10–17 NASB95

    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
    Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
    Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
    Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,
    and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE;
    in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
    And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

The Longest War


Know Your Enemy


Look to your  left  and your  right


Those people are  NEVER  your enemy


Look to  up here  and  back there


Those people are  NEVER  your enemy


Look to your  political left and right


Those people are  NEVER y our enemy


Look to the  past  and to the  future


Ready for it.... NEVER  your enemy


Your enemy is the enemy of your C ommander


  You don't pick your enemy


  Your Lord picks your enemy


Know Your Commander


Look....well, all those directions you looked for the enemy.


That's not where your Commander is, either.


Know Your Objective


It's a rescue mission.


Not a slaughter.


And those people?


Remember: not your enemy.


Use Your Tools


Girded loins? Think tool belt, Batman!


Breastplate of Righteousness: slows assaults


Shoes! The Gospel, the foundation


Shield! Which is used WITH OTHER SHIELDS!


Helmet. For your  noggin '. Little things destroy our heads without a helmet.


One tool of offense! The Sword of the Spirit---which is the Word of God

 

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 4:35 PM November 17, 2016.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Triumphs and Cleanings: Matthew 21

In Summary:

Matthew 21 opens with a familiar scene: the Triumph! Typically, when conquering kings entered cities, they came with a triumphal procession. It was a common practice in the ancient world. It remains a practice to this day—victors are given ticker tape parades in New York City, after all! The other time for the triumphal procession was when the conqueror returned home from conquest. Either image can work for Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem at this point in history. Jerusalem is the place “where God chose to place His name” (2 Chronicles 6:6) and as such is where the returning King comes to celebrate His victory. Jerusalem is also the starting point for His conquest of humanity. 

The catch is, victory parades are only moments in time. The Conquering King remains victorious, but so many of the adoring fans go back to work that the celebration ends and is quickly forgotten. This happens here—Jesus is victorious. People are forgetful.

The next thing the King does upon His return is see to the problems that have come up at home while He was out. In this case, He cleans out the Temple. (I would recommend J. Daniel Hays’ The Temple and The Tabernacle for good information on the overall structure of the Temple.) Jesus then curses a fig tree, responds to the challenge of the chief priests and the elders, and then shuts them down with one more parable. 

The last parable is a direct jab at how the religious leadership of the Jews have treated God’s representatives over the years. (Matthew 21:33-44). It’s worth its own blog post, but here’s a very clear depiction of Jesus as the Son of God. Remember when you look at parables that most everything has meaning. Some things have layers of meanings—in this one, the “landowner” is a stand-in for God the Father, Jesus is the “son of the landowner.” The religious leaders saw who they were, too. 

In Focus:

Dial back to Matthew 21:12-13. I’ve been reading Dr. Hays’ book on the Temple that I mentioned above, and something finally, fully clicked about the cleansing of the Temple here. The money changers and the animal sales people were set up in the Court of the Gentiles of the Temple. This was the closest to the Temple that most people could come—the Jews could go further, but the bulk of humanity are not Jews—and so this is where they needed to pray. Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7, and Mark’s parallel account records that He uses the whole phrase, that His house should be a house of prayer “for all nations.” 

But the Jews have taken the area that they themselves had designated for the rest of the nations (i.e., the Gentiles) and decided it needed shared with the market space. This left the Gentiles without a peaceful place to gather. Without a place to draw as near to God as they could, hear His word, seek His face. 

Jesus was not going to have this. In what is likely the best example of “righteous anger,” He drives the chaos out of this area of the Temple. It was only the edge of the Temple, it was distant from the allegedly important things. Yet here was where God took His stand for who and what should be involved.

In Practice:

First of all, remember that the answer to “What would Jesus do?” could be “Get rightly angry and drive out religiously false profit seekers.” 

Second, think about where we stand in relation to that principle. The Gentiles were barely welcome in Jerusalem, even as it was a city in the Roman Empire. At the dividing wall between the Gentile area and the rest of the Temple (what the Jews considered the “Real Temple”) was a sign warning that a Gentile caught in there was responsible for his own death. For a Gentile to draw near was difficult. Think about those who have a hard time freely coming before God. 

And before you get indignant about how location doesn’t matter, realize that it does. Because those we keep from church fellowship and real relationships with believers are going to find out about the Omnipresent God exactly how? We just put up more barriers.

Then God comes along and reminds us: all nations. All people. What are we going to do about it? The poor, the oppressed, the sojourner, the single mother, the biker, the tattooed lady, the interracial couple, the kid living on the streets.

When our religious expectations put a price on their interaction with God, God does not side with us. When we put profits between people and God, God takes that seriously, and it is far better to be on His side than our own.

In Nerdiness: 

The Synoptic Problem raises its lovely head here again. First, there are minor differences between Matthew and Mark, like the length of the Isaiah quote. That’s one fun part.

The other, bigger question is this: what about John? In John’s Gospel, the Temple is cleansed at the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it’s at the end. Does it happen twice? Or does one of them, probably John, shift the event in the telling to make a point? That is acceptable in the concept of biography at the time, so it’s no slap about accuracy.


I’m not sure where I sit with that. I can see the valid arguments on both sides, but I almost see Jesus coming into the Temple this last week with the same look as a parent, “I just cleaned this mess up! What are you doing?”

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sermon Recap for November 6

It was the Sunday before Election Day, so naturally I kept the sermon focused on something else entirely. We spent the morning addressing loving one another and submitting to one another that God be glorified in our lives. And the evening was on spiritual gifts. The evening video, if it ever uploads, has our usual Sunday night question-and-answer festivities followed by the message.

Morning Sermon: Ephesians 5:21 (audio here)

Video:

 

Notes:

Ephesians 5:21 NASB95

and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

This phrase links two of the most contentious subjects in church. How we act in marriage and what we sing as Christians.

Submission is a touchy subject

But it's worse than you think

"Submit" in one translation is "be subject" in another

Ὑποτασσόμενοι

Our rights?

Subject to the needs of others.

Our desires?

Subject to the needs of others.

Our comforts?

Subject to the needs of others.

1. Be considerate of others

2. Be worthy of other people's trust

3. Focus it on the glory of God!

Individualism is the most dangerous "ism" in the church today

Think about your "I" statements around church, family, and life...

Even simple things...like "I want to know before I..."

We are to submit to one another, for the sake of Christ.

Evening Sermon: Ephesians 4 (audio)

Video:

 

Notes:

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Who has them?

What do we do with them?

Talents/skills

Unchanging?

Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Vineyard Viewpoints: Matthew 20

In Summary:

Matthew 20 records the parable of the workers in the vineyard, and then goes on to another foretelling of Jesus’ death. In light of that, the mother of James and John requests that her sons may sit at the left and right hand of Jesus in His Kingdom. The chapter wraps up with the healing of two blind men on the road out of Jericho.

What do we make of this? This is the third prediction of the Cross and the Resurrection we see in Matthew, which tells us, again, that Jesus was not surprised by anything that happened in the Passion week. The second passage, requesting special treament in the Kingdom, connects with the laborers in the vineyard, so we’ll deal with those together In Focus. The last passage highlights that Jesus never overlooked people.

In Focus:

Let us put the opening story, Matthew 20:1-16, in focus. Jesus returns to an agrarian motif here, highlighting that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a farm with a harvest. The landowner, the one whose harvest it truly was, went and recruited workers. There was more harvest than workers, though, and so he went and got more workers. By the end of the day, there were many workers, and all received the same pay. The longest working were angered by this, but the landowner rightly highlights that it’s his business who he pays what.

First, consider this parable and its meaning. The best basic understanding has us seeing the Landowner as God Almighty, believers as the workers, and the world as the field. After all, we see this in other parables. It’s also the way the disciples saw it—James and John’s mother saw this as an opportunity, after all to ask for the payment she wanted for her sons in the Kingdom. The best way to make sense of it is that God is just and righteous in how He handles the payment of His laborers.

Keep in mind that this parable is taught shortly before the Crucifixion, and follows immediately after the disciples (through Peter) have asked about their reward for having followed Jesus from the beginning (Matthew 19:27-30). There are those who will be coming on board late, but Jesus is instructing that they are all in the same boat, on the same mission.

In Practice:

Practically, what do we do this? There is the first application, that those who come late to Christ still receive the blessing of eternity. And that we should be more concerned to welcome our fellow laborers than to bemoan their sharing in the rewards.

There is another angle to this parable. Note that the day ended, and the workers were paid. It is not that the harvest was finished. Too often, we want to receive our reward and call it a day, but the harvest is not done yet.

Further, we miss the point of recruiting more laborers. As we read this parable, there were laborers waiting for opportunities throughout the day. Each time, the landowner hired a few, more remained to be hired later. Why did their fellow laborers not bring them along?

Knowing us, it’s because first, they wanted to reserve opportunities for their friends or family members. Plus, by not encouraging those “other” workers to join them, they ensured plenty of work for themselves. After all, stable income was a necessity.

Yet harvests are a limited time event. If the work is going to get done, you need as many people as possible. And harvests are about the landowner and the crop—it is not for us to decide who works and who does not. Let the Lord of the Harvest hire who He will. Let us encourage others to join us in the harvest, that the land be fruitful!

In Nerdiness:

First, note Matthew 20:15. The literal rendering would be “Is your eye evil because I am good?” We translate it as “envious” because that’s what the context supports, but recognize this: envy is evil. There’s not way to slice that.

Second, James and John think they are able to follow Jesus, but it takes them years to follow through with drinking the cup of suffering.

Third, a group that we should keep in mind as late-comers to the Kingdom are Jesus’ own brothers, like James and Jude. These came around to the faith later, yet God still used them well.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sermon Recap for October 30

Good evening! Happy Reformation Day! Let us celebrate by remembering the Five Solas of the Reformation before we get to yesterday’s sermon. They are:

  1. Sola Fide: Salvation by Faith Alone.
  2. Sola Scriptura: Authority in Scripture Alone
  3. Solus Christus: Salvation through Christ alone
  4. Sola Gratia: Salvation by grace alone
  5. Soli Deo Gloria: glory to God alone

Three deal with salvation and push back against the idea of salvation by good deeds or financial means or through obedience to human rules. Sola Scriptura pushes back against people in authority over the church—there are church leaders and teachers, but all are (or ought to be) bound by Scripture. The only person who holds authority over a Christian is the Person, Jesus Christ. The last, soli Deo gloria, reminds us where our worship goes.

And they’re all in Latin because Latin was the nerd language of the sixteenth century.

Sunday Morning, October 30 (Audio)

The Sweetest Songs Ephesians 5:1-21

What do we want our legacy to be?

  1. Ephesians 5:1
  2. Ephesians 5:18
  3. Ephesians 5:4

What do we want to fill with?

You see, we are going to fill 168 hours this week

We can imitate Christ by filling our lives with Godliness

We cannot imitate Christ by emptying our lives of ungodliness. We have to replace it.

How?

Change the soundtrack in our heads

Change the deeds of our bodies

Look farther ahead than we have ever looked before.

Prior to the sermon, Angela is singing this song from Praiseworks:

Next week, we’ll have Sunday night church again!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Book: Discovering the Septuagint: A Graded Reader

Discovering the Septuagint

 

Today’s book comes from the Academic/Professional side of Kregel Publishers. This means we know two things: it’s going to be nerdy, and it’s going to be good. I have a high regard for the choices of this publisher (at least right now) and am generally pleased with the materials they produce. This includes the simple portion of the physical concept. This book is no exception as a hardcover, well-bound and sturdy.

Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader is more than just a pretty face. Inside, you will find work overseen by Karen Jobes (PhD, Westminster Theological and Professor at Wheaton) digging into the Septuagint. Considering that the Septuagint is likely the Old Testament more used by the first few centuries of Christianity, one can understand the importance.

Second, many of us pastoral Bible nerds have hung onto our Greek skills better than our Hebrew. While we should correct that error, we can also look harder into the Old Testament with the Greek translation used by such people as Luke, Priscilla, Peter, and Barnabas. They knew a thing or two, after all. The Septuagint, though, predates the Greek New Testament by a few hundred years. That’s enough time for split infinitives to boldly go from wrong to probably okay in English—Greek had some shifts as well in its time. Learning Koine is a leg up into the Septuagint, but understanding its grammar and vocabulary needs a hand.

That is where Jobes’ work comes into play. Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader takes us through a selection of ten passages in the Old Testament to get a feel for the Greek of the Septuagint. Also chosen were passages, such as Esther, which highlight the differences between the Septuagint and the primary Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

This is a helpful book for the growing scholar. Or for the Bible student who has one too many things on their plat. The vocabulary help alone is worth the book’s price. Then you have the helps for dealing with the syntax issues.

In short, Jobes and her team have provided the student of the Old Testament a great help. It will sit nicely on the shelf with some of my other reader’s lexicons for the New Testament. Obviously, familiarity will reduce the need for this text, but you have to start somewhere.

Book provided by Kregel Academic. Some day, they’re going to realize I’m just plundering them for books.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What is Possible? Matthew 19

In Summary:

Matthew 19 is fun. Say that with me, “Matthew 19 is fun.” After all, who doesn’t love a discussion of divorce followed by a statement about eunuchs? Then we see Jesus welcome children (contrary to the adult disciples) and chase off a potential financial backer. The chapter wraps up with Peter asking whether or not the disciples could expect much from following Jesus.

It is necessary, first, to look at the geography of this chapter. Verse 1 tells us that Jesus has departed Galilee and is coming into Judea. It’s His last trip of that nature. The Cross is in sight. Even with so weighty a moment ahead of Jesus, the Pharisees are ready to test Him. (In their defense, they didn’t know about the upcoming Crucifixion. They hadn’t quite hatched that plan.)

So they ask Jesus to side with one or the other of their views on divorce and remarriage. The answer and its application to today are rooted in a fuller understanding of culture, text, and context than I want to undertake here. The short form is that divorce is never a good thing and only happens because of people’s hard hearts. Is it unforgivable? Certainly not. Is it unavoidable? Not always—people are sinners, and people marry sinners. Sometimes, that results in a truly unavoidable situation. But divorce is rarely a good answer. It’s like chemotherapy: you hope it kills the problem before it kills you, and then that you recover from the treatment. So you don’t do it if there’s other options.

We spend a lot of time splitting hairs over this passage that we often lose the view that’s most important: there are no divorces without people. And people need Jesus. Keep the focus on helping people come to Jesus and let the rest sort itself.

The reasoning for this question should be considered. It’s this: the Pharisees had internal conflicts. They wanted Jesus to take a side. Instead, He took His own view. It’s the same thing Joshua encounters in Joshua 5:14. Don’t ask God to take your side. Be sure to take His.

In Focus:

For focus, let us look at Matthew 19:26. The disciples have seen Jesus drive off a good prospect in the Rich Young Ruler. A good prospect? That’s what we would call him in many churches: he’s moral and wealthy! We want him! Jesus, though, tells him to pitch the wealth and come with nothing. He leaves, and the disciples think it is impossible for anyone to be saved.

Jesus reminds them of this truth: “With God, all things are possible.” (see Luke 1:37 for this again) That line centers this chapter. Marriage? The idea that 2 people can live together for life and honor God with their relationship? Impossible!

That eunuchs have a place in the Kingdom? That man can live without marriage? Impossible! That children are the example and the owners of the Kingdom? Impossible! The wealthy can be saved? The poor, the righteous, the ones without will have enough? Impossible!

Yet Jesus highlights that NOTHING! is impossible with God. With people? Plenty of impossiblities. Jesus challenges the disciples to trust that His commands, His will are possible. Because with Him, with God all things are possible.

In Practice:

These days, it feels like everything comes with a disclaimer. Even “With God, all things are possible” needs a disclaimer. Some things of lesser value are impossible for you and me. I cannot run a marathon tomorrow. Neither Mattehw 19:26 or Philippians 4:13 promise that. I have not prepared for it.

These statements on the power of God are about the power of God to enable people to obey Him. Not to do groovy things or to attain earthly success.

So, when we see commands like “love your neighbor” or “go into all the world…” and think they are impossible, we’re right. It’s impossible. The only way to do it is by obeying and trusting God. We start, then, with prayer. We pack the middle with prayer. And then we finish with prayer.

Think of the Big Mac. Bread, stuff, bread, more stuff, and then bread. Obeying God through life is the same way: pray, then do stuff, then pray some more, then do more stuff. Then pray. And repeat.

Never let the impossiblity of the task stop your obedience. Let it only increase your dependence on God.

In Nerdiness:

Nerdstuff: 1. What about marriage? Stick with it. In some cases, survival requires escape. So don’t enter lightly. But the context is a debate between two choices: unrestrained divorce and limited divorce. And the unrestrained was by men chasing new wives whenever they wanted them. Jesus’ answer needs to be seen in that context—it’s just as much adultery to pitch your wife out and marry a new woman as it was to have an affair. And prying a woman from her husband? That makes her a complicit sinner. You can’t make your adultery respectable by shifting paperwork.

2. Be careful provoking Jesus by trying to stop Him doing something. Note that He goes right ahead and lays hands on the children.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Sermon Recap for October 23

Well, last night was business meeting. I’m not going to post that. It was mostly dull.

I referenced Pray4EveryHome.com in the service yesterday. Click the link to find out more.

Morning Sermon: The Sweetest Speech: Ephesians 4:29-32 (Audio)

(For the record, people aren’t clapping for me coming to the pulpit.)


The Sweetest Speech

Ephesians 4:29–32 NASB95
    Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
    Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
    Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
    Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Unwholesome  Words


Words of  Edification


  Egg fu what?  Edification


  Building up, strengthening, healing


Grieving  God in our Words


    a.    Bitterness


    b.    Wrath


    c.    Anger


    d.    Clamor--Noisy


    e.    Slander


Christlikeness  in Speech


  Tender-hearted


  Kind


  Forgiving


  Grace giving

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sermon Recap for Oct 16

Good afternoon! It’s been a week for the birds, so I haven’t gotten even the sermons posted. But, here they are!

Sunday Morning: The Worthiest Walk, Ephesians 4:1-6 (Audio here)


The Worthiest Walk

The Worthiest Walk

Doug Hibbard / General

Ephesians 4:1–16

Ephesians 4:1 NASB95

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

Ephesians 4:1-6

Implore? THIS IS A COMMAND !

Examples like Paul

Surrendered Fully to Jesus

Not always look like success

Not always accepted by the world

"Walk in a manner worthy"

Following ONE LORD!

Ephesians 4:4–6 NASB95

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

When we chase a multitude of gods, division happens

When we feel superior to others, division happens

When we divide over issues other than the faith, division happens

And what did Jesus say about division in the house?

Mark 3:25 NASB95

“If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

Mark 3:25

We are to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit

When we walk with God, we are unified.

Division happens when we walk away from Him.

What do we do?

1. Know Jesus.

Have hope!

2. Know the Word of God.

Understand your calling!

3. Heed the Spirit .

Be peaceful!

4. Be Equipped .

Grow into maturity !

Page . Exported from Logos Bible Software, 4:35 PM October 19, 2016.


Evening Service: Colossians 2

We observed the Lord’s Supper in the evening service. Here’s the video.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sermon Recap for October 9

Good Afternoon! Here is Sunday morning’s sermon. We spent Sunday night dealing with politics, so it was long. And not super exciting. I won’t be posting it :) Audio is here

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sermon Recap for October 2

Good evening! Here is yesterday morning’s sermon. Last night, we had a lot of good questions, but those just don’t translate well for the audio.

The audio link is here.


The Biggest Subject

The Biggest Subject

Doug Hibbard / General

Ephesians / Ephesians 1:18–23

 

Ephesians 1:18-23


Chosen in Christ (v. 4)


Having Redemption (v. 7)


The Resurrection is the Proof of Jesus' Authority


This age and the age to come


All things are in subjection to Christ


Including the Church, His body


His Power: Nothing else works


Far Above in Sovereignty!


Actions?


1. Surrender to Christ


2. Obey as a Church


3. Submit in All Things, not just the easy ones

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Learning for Life

Today, I should be writing something about politics. Or food. Or how food affects politics. That would be a good one.

Instead, though, I’m in class all day. Well, technically, it’s a “Pastor’s Conference.” But I’m back at Ouachita Baptist University for the day. Ann and I will be with the School of Christian Studies faculty (back in our day, they were the Biblical Studies Department) learning about….MALACHI!

That’s right. 6 hours in Malachi. And we won’t scratch the surface.

Then, over the weekend, we’ll both peruse a few articles in the latest Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (I need to renew that subscription). Why?

Because we learn for life. It’s necessary. For us, we mainly do this in areas like Biblical Studies, communications, history, but we also love places like science museums and art galleries. The world is a big place.

The God who created it is a big God, after all. And loving God with all that we are means we are not going to put our brains in “park” and stop growing in our understanding.

So, back to normal blog stuff next week. Whatever that is around here—considering I start back on the Ph.D. this week—and we’ll look at everything from politics to what I’ve been learning about taking Sabbath.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book: Everything is Possible by Jen Bricker

First, your eyes are not deceiving you. The young lady on the book cover is doing a handstand, and has no legs. Jen Bricker was born without legs. This book is her story, told with the help of Sheryl Burk. As with any biography/autobiography, it is difficult to comment on the book without commenting on the subject matter.

Everything is Possible starts with the story of Bricker sailing into an event in Qatar attached to a hot air balloon. It sets the tone for a high-flying adventure. The first chapter grounds that adventure in the challenges of being born without legs and the true cost that was to Jen Bricker and her family. Her biological parents felt ill-equipped to care for her and so placed her for adoption.

From there, the story picks up. Bricker is an unstoppable force, and her faith in God is the push she needs to do whatever she sets her mind to. We find a girl who is limited only by those around her, and who typically finds a way around those limitations.

This results in a story that you would never believe if it were sold as fiction. There’s just too many times that Jen accomplishes things which many people with all four limbs would struggle with for this to be real. Except that it is.

Now, from a writing perspective, this book exudes the enthusiasm of youth and accomplishment. As yet, Bricker hasn’t encountered something she could not do. Her outlook is molded by this: she can accomplish, she will accomplish. Therefore, dear reader, so should you. Except some of us old cynics will respond that some things you actually cannot do. There are limitations. That reality, though, is noticeably absent for this story.

And given the obstacles that Bricker has overcome, it is no wonder that she firmly believes that all can be overcome. May more people be driven to try in the face of obstacles and not fold up at the first sign of trouble.

It’s written plainly and straightforward. I’d put it in the hands of anyone needing a current biography. And it’s definitely readable at a high school level, if not a touch further down.

I did receive a copy of this from the publisher.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Forgiveness: Matthew 18

In Summary:
Jesus is headed to the Cross. We’ve seen Him clearly state this in Matthew 17, Matthew 16….you get the idea. At this point, the Twelve Disciples are beginning to get the idea as well. How can we see that? Look at the question which opens Matthew 18. The question arises about who is the greatest?

The Twelve are starting to think about rank and position, because if Jesus is about to come into His kingdom, then it’s time to assign the work. It is time for each of them to find their place in the vanguard of the kingdom, so Jesus needs to point out which one comes first. He does not pick one of the Twelve, though, to point out the greatness of His followers. Instead, He takes a child and makes a point about humility, trust, and compassion.

Which becomes the common thread for the remainder of Matthew 18. Jesus highlights the need to receive children and not cause them to stumble, then goes on to point out how His hearers should strongly remove what causes them to stumble! We then follow Jesus as He instructs the disciples about chasing down a wandered sheep, and about keeping a fellow sheep from wandering too far. That text, Matthew 18:15-20, is most often cited for cases of church discipline, yet placing it in context moves the emphasis of the passage, and of church discipline, to restoration above rebuke. It is, after all, surrounded by passages about forgiveness and seeking the lost.

In Focus:

The last story will draw our focus today. Matthew 18:21-22 retells Peter’s question about forgiveness. Contrary to the rabbinical teaching of forgiving three times, Peter offers that seven times seems better. Jesus, though, hits Peter with a math problem (maybe) and a growth issue. Jesus responds that seventy-seven times should be the limit—and then highlights that forgiveness between servants should be at least as great as the forgiveness of their master.

His point is clear: forgiveness between people should be unmeasured. After all, God has poured a greater forgiveness on us.

In Practice:

When you get up tomorrow, then, the first thing to realize is that you do not get to make another tally mark to count down the forgiveness you give others. Instead, the forgiven heart will long to forgive.

Unfortunately, we have to address a caveat here. Some hurts, some wounds, are so deep and so personal that forgiveness comes from a distance. And lives stay at a distance. Further, forgiveness is a spiritual action that connects to eternity. Consequences will remain. Anyone who suggests that you ignore a serious crime, like abuse, in the name of “forgiveness,” does not understand the concept. Point them back to the beginning of the chapter about stumbling blocks and millstones….and being cast into the ocean.

Now, back to the application for those who are not dealing with that particular issue—which is most of us. First, our standard of forgiveness is neither the world nor spiritual people, but the actions of God Almighty. This is where Peter is a bit confused. He is trying to go a bit better than the good folks, but the good folks are not our standard. God is.

Second, when we encounter those who owe us, we should meet them with grace. (If you fall into the above group, grace is shown differently. You need God-honoring counsel about your personal situation.) Grace that does not demand immediate repayment, but instead recognizes what all believers are: those who have been forgiven much by the Master, and who are all His servants.

In Nerdiness:

(With much appreciation to Craig Blomberg’s NAC volume on Matthew for some of these ideas.)

First, the math problem. Is Matthew 18:22 rightly translated as 77 or 490? We tend to favor 490 for its extravagance, but 77 is probably the better choice for the Greek word. Further, Augustine (Early Church Father Augustine,) finds a parallel in Luke 3’s 77 generations from Jesus back to Adam.

I think the better connection is the one highlighted by Blomberg and Hilary of Poiters (another Early Church Father.) If you go back to Genesis 4:15, we see Cain would be avenged up to 7 times. Then in Genesis 4:24, Lamech claims “seventy-sevenfold,” or 77, (though that could also be translated a touch different at 490) as his vengeance. We see here a parallel undoing the vengeance of the early times of man. Peter offers to be as forgiving as God was vengeful—God was the one who pronounced the vengeance for Cain, after all—but God proclaims that He is as merciful as man is vengeful.

Second, there’s a challenge for us who claim the Bible is to be taken literally in Matthew 18:8. If your method of studying and applying the Bible is simplistic and literalistic, you’re going to be missing parts. Better learn to understand through a more robust way.

Third, Matthew 18:12-14 should be read understanding that there aren’t 99 good sheep. We all are represented by the 1 wanderer.

Fourth, we tend to hold on to the Matthew 18:20 no matter what we’re doing, but that should go in context. And then, in the church discipline context, remember that Jesus has stressed continually the need to be forgiving of harms against us. The best application I can make of this comes here: the first part of the chapter addresses removing stumbling blocks—those things which draw the innocent from Christ. The second half addresses forgiving those who sin against us. That suggests that giving someone the left-boot of fellowship should be reserved for those who are tripping the innocent and naive, not for those who annoy the mature.

Fifth, ten thousand talents (Matthew 18:24) is an impossibly huge debt. That’s the point. Cue the music.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Sermon Recap for September 25

Here are the sermons from September 25.

Morning Sermon: Ephesians 1:1-2 (audio here)

Who are we?

Most of us identify as Americans, as Arkansans, as something...

But who are we, really?

Saints

Set apart by God

Set apart for God

Faithful Ones

Choosing to Obey

Choosing to Stand Fast

For those, there are

Grace and Peace

From God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

 

Evening Sermon: (Audio here)

A good start

Joshua dies

The people wisely seek God for what their next step is

Judah asks Simeon for help and commits to help Simeon

They then defeat Adoni-bezek

Thumbs/big toes

Taking of Jerusalem

Family relationships: Kenites (they'll be back)

Benjamites do not actually take and keep Jerusalem. They cohabit with the Jebusites. (That's bad)

What about us?

1. Seek the Lord for HOW!

He's already given us the WHAT

2. Get the HELP you need

Honor the COMMITMENTS you make for it

3. Finish the WORK ahead of you

Do not leave SNARES for later

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book: NKJV Teen Study Bible

Today, let’s look at the NKJV Teen Study Bible from Zondervan. I’d like to focus on the study helps involved with this Bible, because a simple review is no place to treat with the weighty issues of Bible translation critique. I’ll say this and move forward: there are good reasons to use a translation other than the New King James version of the Bible. There are also some good reasons to use it. The best Bible translation of the world is basically useless if you don’t read it. So if you’ll read NKJV but won’t read NASB or HCSB or NIV, then there’s no reason not to read NKJV. (There are spurious pseudo-translations that you should not read. This is not one.)

First observation: I’ve got the hardcover from Zondervan. It has held up well to several weeks of being tossed in a backpack and lugged around. After all, if you want to give a Bible to a teenager, you need it to hold up.

Second observation: contents are in color, which helps with attention span and focus. Further, colors help separate the Biblical text from the other materials.

Third observation: the general study helps are fairly denominationally neutral. They are mostly on the “conservative” side, to use the catchphrase. In this case, it’s not political but theological. “Conservative” tends to stick with the traditional views of the existence of miracles, historicity of the text, and so forth.

Fourth observation: the authors include the classic Apostle’s Creed in examination of basic Christian beliefs. For readers in a non-creedal tradition, this may be somewhat odd. But this does provide a good summary of minimal Christianity.

Conclusion: as a pastor, I’ll be passing this one on to a teen who needs a study Bible. It lacks the depth of say, the Zondervan NIV Study Bible, but it’s not intended to be. For an entry level study Bible, it’s a good option. It does not stand out among the crowd, but if NKJV is your preference, this one works.

 

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Of Fish and Taxes: Matthew 17

In Summary:
Matthew 17 opens with the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. It ends with a fishing story. Sandwiched between those two is a healing of a demon-possessed young man. It’s a fairly typical “week in the life” segment for Jesus and His disciples.

Matthew opens with giving a specific time reference. The opening event, The Transfiguration, begins six days after the statements in Matthew 16:28. Without poking at too many great scholars, it is worth noting that the narrative has Jesus leading Peter, James, and John up the mountain after six days. Whether or not the whole event took place in just one day is debatable. It may have been too much of a mountain.

While up on the mountain, Jesus is “transfigured” or changed in front of the three who are with Him. The general consensus is that He appears as His glory truly is. (See, for example, Revelation 1:13-16.) Along with Him are Moses and Elijah.

They come down the mountain and encounter a man with a demon-possessed son. The disciples, at least the remaining nine, could do nothing for him. Jesus drives out the demon and departs. They move on through Galilee and into Capernaum. On the way, Jesus declares very clearly that He will die. And then, when they get there, Simon makes a mistake in answering a question about Jesus…and we get a fish with a coin.

In Focus: (I’ve touched on this event before, in Mark and in Luke. Click on over to read those thoughts.)

Since I have links to the Transfiguration (and in the Luke one, deal a bit with the demon-possession,) let us turn our focus onto the fish. After all, who doesn’t love a good fish story? I do see Jonah leaving the room in the back there, but everyone else is with me, right? Good.

Peter is asked whether or not Jesus pays the “two-drachma.” This was a tax that originated in Exodus 30:13. It was required in Exodus of all those who God delivered from slavery. Jesus has, apparently, gone on ahead and Peter answers for Him. For the record, answering for Jesus without checking with Him is not the best approach…Jesus then corrects Peter when they are gathered in the home. (Possibly Peter’s house, Matthew 8.) He asks whether or not human kings charge their children taxes.

He then sends Peter out to handle the tax anyway. Even though they are agreed that Jesus does not owe this tax, He wants to prevent the stumbling of the people around Him. So, God arranges that a fish with a shekel in its mouth will be interested in Peter’s fishing hook. The money is then used to pay the tax. It was enough for Peter and Jesus’ tax because four drachma make one shekel.

In Practice:

Seem odd to you? Unfortunately, we cannot make the application of this passage that we pay the IRS only whatever shows up in the fish we catch. We can find a couple of things:

1. The half-shekel/two-drachma was a tax based in paying for redemption. Jesus did not owe it because He is the Redeemer. Peter, you, and I, do not owe it because we are the redeemed. No amount of shekels will cover our sin or redeem our lives. Only Jesus does so. Stop trying to earn salvation. Even the offerings you bring are powered by God—after all, you didn’t make yourself, did you?

2. Offending others, causing them to stumble, is not something to be done lightly. Jesus has no qualms about setting people right, but in this case He seeks to keep peace and address the problem later. That has implications for us, too…

3. It’s worth restating: our gifts to God are like Peter’s ability to pay this tax. We have nothing that is not given to us in the first place. God accepts what we bring out of love, not out of obligation.

In Nerdiness:

Synoptic problem: Luke 8 refers to 8 days. Matthew 17 to 6 days. Is someone wrong? Or does Luke include a bit more travel? Does Matthew’s more Jewish viewpoint lead to excluding Sabbaths? They likely didn’t travel much on the Sabbath…

Harmonization/textual criticism: some of the earlier manuscripts of Matthew do not have Matthew 17:21, but the verse shows up in the Mark 9:29 parallel. Did a scribe copy it in? Does it matter, since if Mark is inspired (I believe he is,) then he’s right about what happened. If Matthew left out a detail, that is not the same as Matthew claiming a different version. I may not have told you I stopped at 2 red lights coming home. I may just say “I drove home.” That’s not a lie. I just also stopped at two lights…

Old Testament in the New Testament: Exodus 30 would seem to leave the half-shekel tax as an Exodus event. Apparently, it became a repeated event and was collected typically in drachma. One drachma is an average worker’s daily pay.
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July 5 Service Recap

Good morning! Here are the service recaps from last week. First we’ll see the morning services, both the 9 AM and the 11 AM, then there will...