Friday, April 29, 2016

Share the Word: Deuteronomy 31

In Summary:

Moses has very little time left in the story. His story draws to an end with the close of the Pentateuch and has only three chapters left. He has led Israel out Egypt and up to the Promised Land. The story now focuses on him personally rather than the nation as a whole.

Deuteronomy 31 features the beginning of Moses’ closing words to Israel. This chapter is headed by an important distinction: these are the words of Moses to all Israel, rather than Moses speaking for the Lord. That is an important distinction, although my belief in all of the Bible as inspired by God leads me to see this still as God’s Word. Prior to this chapter, Moses has given the official terms and conditions of the covenant.

Here we see the beginning of his summary of those terms. Think of it like this: there are long, wordy terms and conditions for the software you use. I can sum it up: don’t make illegal copies of the software, don’t break it down to make your own version, don’t expect it to do more than it claims, don’t expect the company to pay you for it not doing what it should do, and don’t expect the company to provide you a new computer if it breaks yours.

One of those is the legal covenant for using iTunes. The other is my synopsis. Both are accurate—this is the best analogy to what we see Moses do in the first portion of Deuteronomy 31.

The second portion records the Lord’s (YHWH)’s words to Moses about what the future holds for Israel. It’s a disturbing look at the future of apostasy and failure. God gives a command to Moses to write a song for the Israelites to remember the covenant by, and the commissions Joshua to take charge of Israel. The song is Deuteronomy 32, so we’ll see that later.

In Focus:

Focus in on Deuteronomy 31:9 for a moment. Moses has written out the Law. He now gives a copy to the Levites who carry the Ark and “to all the elders,” likely meaning that they are witnesses to the event. It is also possible that there are additional copies which are entrusted to the leadership of the community while one is preserved in the Ark.

Is it important? This is recorded twice in this chapter (Deuteronomy 31:26,) with this second time highlighting the evidentiary purpose of the preservation. The Ark-held copy is for a witness against the Israelites, in the days when they abandon the covenant.

In Practice:

Practically speaking, the first item we should see is that the covenant and its written record belong to the people, not to just one person. The idea we can copy here is that no one person—be it a Moses or a Joshua—should possess the Word of God and block the access of others to it. Why? Partly because all of us are accountable to the Word of God. This is part of the Christian heritage of our nation, as well: the rule of law.

As an aside: we are not in a rule of the majority nation. We are in a rule of law nation. The majority voices their opinion to make the law, but then the law rules. Otherwise there is chaos—and someone claiming to be popular can subvert the reality. Further, the law rules and prohibits the majority from making abusive decisions to the detriment of the minorities.

Next piece of practical results? This: the consistent presence of the Word of God is a witness against us, His covenant people, for our failure to keep that covenant. We live in a Bible-rich age and our lives are Bible-poor. That should not be.

Finally, there is the ever-present reminder here that generations follow after generations. Let us not assume we are the first to follow Jesus nor that we will be the last. Let us learn from those who have entrusted the task to us, and then let us entrust the task onward!


In Nerdiness:

Of all the laws Moses restates in the first part of Deuteronomy 31, he picks remission of debts in Deuteronomy 31:10. Think on what that means for how we handle economics.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sermon Recap for April 24

Here are the sermons from this past Sunday:

Morning Sermon: 1 Samuel 9 (audio)

Evening Sermon on Ecclesiastes is Video only:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Clear Covenant Choices: Deuteronomy 30

In Summary:

We are nearing the end of Deuteronomy. By extension, that means we are also near the end of the Pentateuch and soon to move out of the books of Moses. Deuteronomy 30 is actually the end of the covenant message from YHWH through Moses to the people. The remaining chapters are Moses’ final charge and blessing to the people and the account of his death.

A belief in the inspiration of Scripture guides to me to recognize that even those chapters are part of God’s Word. If we were doing Old Testament History and Theology, though, we would cutoff God’s covenant with Israel with the end of chapter 30.

What is in Deuteronomy 30? The summary of the blessings that will come from obedience, and the solemn warning that the Lord God Almighty is serious about this situation. Some of the promises here can be misapplied, as God promises a level of prosperity to the obedient Israelites, to mean that believers in Jesus will never have problems. That is unsupported in this text, as these promises are clearly related to covenant Israel in that era.

If you want to take it literally, you’ll have to be satisfied with cattle and life on a farm. That’s the prosperity in view here: olives for you and all the sheep you can sacrifice.

In Focus:

Laying that aside, Deuteronomy 30:11-14 is our focus for the day. What do we find here?

First, we see the challenge of covenant keeping. V. 11 tells the Israelites that the covenant is not too difficult for them. This verse should be kept in mind as we look back at the Old Testament: it was not an impossible task, for God was in their midst. Covenant abandonment by Israel was willful on their part, not fated.

Second, we see the challenge of covenant knowledge. Vv. 12-13 remind the Israelites that they do not have to travel to the ends of the earth or the heights of the heavens to find out what God has to say. They have that knowledge, right there in front of them.

Third, we see the challenge of covenant clarity. V. 14 shows us they could see and understand the covenant. God’s Word was near to them—it was their choices that would decide this.


In Practice:

Practically, the same three things echo to us today: covenant knowledge, covenant clarity, and covenant keeping.

First, we know the covenant of God. For us, it is that Jesus has said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6). That knowledge is readily available to many of us—and most of us that have such knowledge are aware of our responsibility to spread it! Have you learned of God’s great love for you and His sacrifice? If you have…who have you told lately? One cannot keep a covenant one does not know!

Second, we have the covenant clarified for us in Scripture. It is not about sheep or goats or even about land. It is all about Jesus, the One who died for us. Are we walking with Him as He clearly commands us?

Third, we have the covenant to keep. The Holy Spirit dwells within all believers in Jesus—but we continue to claim the covenant is too hard for us! It is not impossible, for Christ in us makes it attainable that we might obey!

In Nerdiness:

A brief note: the calling of “heaven and earth” as witnesses seals the covenant treaty. These witnesses are called again in Prophets when the Israelites are not keeping the covenant! Isaiah 1 and Micah 1 are good examples of this.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tools for the Trade: Paper Planners

There are two major challenges for me as I bring together the various parts of my calling and work.

The first one is finding the creative ideas necessary to develop writings, sermons, and other materials. That is a discussion for another day because it just takes more discussion. The other major challenge is practical: keeping everything organized. This is not a cry session over being too busy—every aspect of my life is related to my choices. This is simply an observation: to make life work, one needs a bit of organization.

That is not really my strong suit. If I can remember it, I do it was my organizational structure for a while. Then I worked off this plan: I showed up for work when I was told to show up for work. I did what I was told. I went home, and if I had any other energy, I did what I could remember needed to be done. Somehow, in the midst of that, I didn’t go entirely crazy. Or at least any crazier than I was before.

Now, I realize something. I’m an adult. I have a full-time career/calling. I have outside work as a non-profit board member. I write. Oh, and I’m going back to school to earn a doctorate. All of this has to fit properly under the Lordship of Christ, which first enables and requires that I serve my family well.

And while relationships are the key to almost all of this (vocabulary is pretty crucial to passing German and French,) relationships thrive when we honor our commitments. Saying “I’ll get that done” or “I’ll be there” are commitments. Keeping my commitments shows others that they are important to me. Keeping work commitments shows that I want to get the work done—and that I like to eat because I want to keep my job.

Into that, then, comes the question: how do you keep with such things? Most people use their minds and random post-it notes. That system does not work for me. It also doesn’t work for me to just put things into my phone and computer for Google Calendar. I don’t type well enough on my phone and the digital world is a bit too engrossing to store everything there, anyway—what happens when the blasted thing glitches out?

I have tried a variety of day planners and organizers over the years. I used to use a mega-Franklin Covey system with two pages per day and so on. I gave that up when they stopped producing the page-a-day with The Far Side comic for each day. Just didn’t see a reason for it anymore. Besides, I needed a lighter system. I drifted through some standard calendars and now have settled into two choices.

The first is the Spark Notebook. I love my Spark Notebook. I backed this on Kickstarter and I’ve gotten another one since then. The layout is good, the modules for goal setting/achieving are excellent. If you are able to block schedule your days, then it’s the best I’ve got. It’s a hardcover book, the Spark Planner version is pre-dated (a BIG plus,) and I’ve never seen more responsive customer service than when I had a little problem with the shipping on mine. You can hit the link above and follow instructions for a free digital version.

If your days are generally pre-scheduled or you do not need to plot out by the hour, then you can stop here.

If you have to have hourly divisions for your planner, then you might want to go bigger. All the way to The Week Dominator. I’ve been using NeuYear’s annual calendars for several years, and I backed this project on Kickstarter as well. The first version wasn’t as awesome as I really wanted, which led to an ongoing search.
The current edition addressed the flaws in the initial design. And now, with the RadFolio addition, it’s about all I need. There are two drawbacks. 1, it’s undated. That’s not as bad as endnotes in a book, but it’s close. 2, it’s huge. This is an in-bag or on-desk planner.

What that has done, though, is forced me to the habit of sitting down weekly and plotting the week. I review calendar dates and events and try to make sure everything is up-to-date for this week. It’s not perfect, and no organization system is better than one’s determination to use it.

That’s what I use. Anybody got better ideas?

(In another post, I’ll run through the tech tools that supplement the paper system.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book: The Other Worldview




Worldview. It’s a term that most of us have heard by now. It is the catch-all term for how the sum of what we believe drives our response to the universe around us. Many of the books on worldview you will find suggest that worldviews are as numerous as the people who hold them—that there are millions of options for a worldview.

Peter Jones’ work The Other Worldview presents a different take on the idea. His concept is that there are not an infinite number of worldviews. Instead, he posits the existence of exactly two worldviews. These are oneism and twoism. That’s it. The former is the view of a universe that is self-existent and self-sustaining, while the latter sees the universe as requiring the existence of a transcendent, personal God to create it.

That may sound simple and you may be wondering why it takes 250 pages to say that. First, Jones works to delineate the two possibilities of worldviews. From there, he works out how twoism is supported through Christian theology. After this, he explains how this affects our actions as Christian believers.

Throughout the work, the reader sees contrasts between the two ideas as Jones demonstrates how oneism falls short of reality. He also works through how most of the world’s other religions have their roots in the idea of a self-contained universe rather than acknowledging a transcendent God. Most of the discussion of how Christianity better reflects twoism than the other monotheistic religions is relegated to the endnotes. That there are endnotes instead of footnotes is certainly regrettable, as many of them are valuable tangents to consider. And the reader would be better served to have them handy in footnotes.

Jones rightly highlights the danger that the shift in worldviews has brought to most of Western culture. His solutions are sprinkled throughout the book and even though they are somewhat predictable, they remain timely. Whether or not we will heed them is our own choice.

The Other Worldview would fit for a serious student of culture or religion, and will take some mental effort to read. The results are worth the effort though, as Jones will help clarify some of the issues at hand in the worldview shift we see around us.

  

Succeeding Troubles: Matthew 10

In Summary:

In Matthew 10, Jesus calls and sends out the Twelve Disciples. Take note that the various Gospels record the individual calling of most of these men, but there is a separate time where Jesus appoints them as “The Twelve.” Matthew records that they are given authority over unclean spirits and power to heal, then sent out. Nowhere do we find Jesus expressing delight that these twelve have followed Him or stating that their call was a result of their awesomeness.

God’s call is His own to issue, and His to give in grace. Being called as an apostle was nothing to brag about because it was unmerited. The same is true of all believers and the life God has called each of us into: we are here by His grace. Any awesomeness we have is a gift of His, not our own.

The calling passage includes a list of the Twelve. Peter is first, Judas is last, and Matthew is included. His personal call was in Matthew 9, but here he is placed in the Twelve.

Jesus gives the Twelve instructions for their mission, including what to do, what to take, and what not to do and what NOT to take. The Twelve are to rely on those they minister among for their needs—but they are not to seek wealth in the process. They are to seek provision and trust God for the later needs.

The rest of the chapter addresses what the disciples, both the Twelve and the larger group, can expect.


In Focus:

Taking a look at Matthew 10:24 as our main verse, we see that Jesus highlights that He will suffer. And, since He will suffer, his successors should also expect trouble. After all, they are not going to be greater than He is. They will face the same opposition—and the more they are like Jesus, the more certain they can be of the persecution coming their way.

This includes warnings of the destruction of family relationships (10:21), homeless wandering (10:23), and worse (10:28). This last verse, though, is not only a warning but a hope. Yes, opposition to the Gospel can kill the body.

Only One, though, has power over the soul. And He watches over even the hair on your head.

In Practice:

What do we do, then, in light of this?

First and foremost, we strive to be like Jesus. We cannot be jerks or idiots and blame it off on the world’s hatred of Jesus. If you are slack in your work, they did not fire you for your beliefs. They fired you for being a slacker. So do the fullest of what you can do, because all that we do ought to glorify God.

Second, we expect trouble. Troubles from this world should be the normal experience of the Believer in Jesus. If your faith is always easy, you are isolated from reality. There are people who need you, both in the body of Christ and outside of it. But once you interact with them, you will see the trouble, and it will affect you.

Third, we stand firm. Matthew 10:38 is the clearest passage you will find on this. The call to follow Jesus is the call to publicly identify with His death. Not with His miracles, but His death. That’s not the call for some mythical set of “super-Christians” but for all who follow Him.

It is our job to walk the streets condemned for our Savior, publicly declaring who He is. Let it be obvious who we are, what we believe, and most importantly: Who we serve.

Christ is Lord!


In Nerdiness:

The Apostle lists are found Luke 6:14-16, Mark 3:16-19, and Acts 1:13. John names Apostles throughout, but has no definite list of the Twelve. There are differences in these lists, in both content and order. Some aspects are easy to explain: Simon the Cananaean and Simon the Zealot are easily the same person. Others are tougher, but many people had multiple names in that era (not to mention Jesus’ own habit of renaming people, e.g. Simon/Peter; Abram/Abraham,) so the idea that Bartholomew and Nathanael of Cana are the same person is not impossible. Still, these differences should be noted and not ignored. If we believe that God inspired Scripture down to the details, then the details matter.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Book: 40 Questions about the Historical Jesus

Book Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by Kregel Academic.

Second Book Disclaimer: This book is written by C. Marvin Pate, Ph.D. Dr. Pate is a member of the Ouachita Baptist University Pruet School of Christian Studies Faculty. (He is the Elma Cobb Professor of Theology and Chair of the Department of Christian Theology.)

40 Questions About the Historical Jesus

Who is Jesus? What can we know about Jesus, especially if we decide to disregard the Bible as mostly religious propaganda? These were some of the questions of the various times scholarship has gone on a “quest for the historical Jesus.” Ultimately, even though the conclusions have greatly varied, these scholarly efforts have an effect throughout New Testament scholarship.

Sorting through the various ideas promulgated by the “quests for the historical Jesus” throughout history requires one to read a multitude of books and primary sources. However, getting a starting point can be found in C. Marvin Pate’s 40 Questions about the Historical Jesus. This latest entry in Kregel’s 40 Questions series presents a summary of the various views. Further, Pate provides a basic response to several of the questions that the Jesus Quests have sought to answer.

How is this structured? Well, if you haven’t really thought it about it…there are 40 questions posed, ranging from the history of theology leading to the “Quest for the historical Jesus” to the questions those quests attempted to answer. Each of these 40 is narrowly focused and answered from an orthodox perspective.

The introductory material provides some of the modern reasons for understanding the truth of who Jesus is historically. These are no longer merely academic pursuits: modern media has brought some of the fringe to the forefront, allowing even long-debunked theories “equal time.” Ministers and Bible nerds, you need to have at least one easily accessed reference point to demonstrate the truth.

Oh, and FOOTNOTES! rather than endnotes. So that’s a big plus Smile

 

Free book in exchange for the review.

Sermon Recap for April 17

Another Monday, another sermon recap post…

Yes, taxes come up in this sermon. No, I didn’t plan on bringing up taxes the day before American federal income tax was due. That just happened.

Morning Sermon: 1 Samuel 8 (audio)

 

Evening Sermon: Philippians (audio)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sermon Recap for April 10

Well, it’s taken a little longer. Sorry about that. We don’t have video from Sunday night because we held the service at Two Rivers Bridge Park. It was a great time. With a nice 20+mph wind, constant. The condenser mic on the camera would have picked up nothing but wind. So you have voice recorder from that but not much else.

Morning Service: 1 Samuel 7 (audio)

 

Evening Service: Philippians 1 (audio)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Reflecting on Seminary

Here we are again, thinking out loud. It’s been about 2 years since I wrapped up my formal education in seminary as I finished my Master of Divinity degree. Besides realizing that Dr. Buckelew, the speech professor at Ouachita, was right along in telling us all to go get an MA in Religion somewhere and then a Ph.D., what else I have learned?

Oh, you want to know why Dr. Buckelew was right? A Master of Divinity (MDiv) takes about 90 hours. A Master of Arts (MA) takes 30. Then, either way you slice it, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) takes about 60 hours. That means you can either be a master in about 90, or hold a doctorate in about 90. What did I do? Not the smart thing.

That being said, I then spent several years completing what some people consider to be the required education to be a pastor. Whether or not that’s a valid view is another discussion. I did it in a variety of ways. I spent time on campus as a full-time student. I spent time taking intensive, one-week classes on campus. I did independent study courses online. I did online which featured video lecture. I think that I did almost every form of in-person and distance-learning class that was available. I missed out on the hybrid classes where you watch live feed of the classroom and participate via Zoom. My Internet connection couldn’t have handled it, anyway.

What did I learn? Aside from the subject matter you find on my transcript, I picked up these tidbits:

1. Those who want to learn will learn. Among those who have the means to be involved in school, some students want to do learn as much as possible. Some want a degree and to be done. Some want to hide from reality and stay in school.

None of the forms of higher education were exempt from that. There were guys who coasted in the classroom (and yes, they graduated that way.) There were guys who coasted through online life. The only place that really caught out slacking was the 1-week intensive, but you could still slack through the pre/post work.

Each form has limitations (especially if you have a learning style that doesn’t roll well with lecture/classroom), but nothing is more important than the learner’s desire to learner. As a corollary: even those without means to pursue formal education show this to be true. Those who want to know find ways. This is why LIBRARIES are important!

2. There is no substitute for asking professors questions, directly. While I mainly learned that doing Greek (in the 2nd term, after flailing about the 1st,) it’s true in any class. Ask. Clearly, politely, and in an informed manner. Don’t ask questions that are clear in the syllabus, required readings, and lectures. Don’t ask dumb questions like “will this be on the test?” If you want to know about tests, ask “How will my understanding of this be tested?” That gets to the core of whether you should memorize dates, facts, or minutiae…or learn to write a good analysis of those things which shows what you recall and are going to do with it.

That being said, if you are looking at higher education in a place with no access to professors, then look onward. I don’t mean that you should be able to camp on their couch all the time, but find out from students (and not just the handpicked ones admissions shows you) whether they feel comfortable contacting a professor. If they hedge…be aware. You’re possibly on your own. Note that your professors are going to be busy—respect that and don’t waste their time. But seeking help and guidance is not wasting their time. Email is beautiful for this: put all your questions and such together and send it on, waiting patiently for a response in a few days.

And no, “keeping professors in the workforce as well so they stay current” isn’t a substitute for connecting with them. Schools that don’t enable professors to be professors may be cheaper, but you need to evaluate that.

3. There is no substitute for the fellowship of your fellow students. Find a way to make it happen. I fell dreadfully short on this in all forms of education. It’s a lonely trip through, and a lonely time at the end.

4. Get educated and get to work, but do not neglect learning outside of your field. If you’re in the ministry realm realize that you need to work outside of that field enough to know what it would be like to do it for a lifetime. The flock God puts you with is doing just that. And yes, there are still people in churches who are astounded to find out that I used to work 60 hour weeks trying to make ends meet, just like a normal person.

5. Never stop learning. Part of the busy life is learning how to fit personal growth into a stacked-out day. You can shift what you learn, but never stop growing!

Just a few thoughts. Why? Because I’m starting to put together the plan to go back to it. The doors were shut on one plan, so I’m headed to a different plan, but it’s about time to get with it.

Reflecting on Seminary

Here we are again, thinking out loud. It’s been about 2 years since I wrapped up my formal education in seminary as I finished my Master of Divinity degree. Besides realizing that Dr. Buckelew, the speech professor at Ouachita, was right along in telling us all to go get an MA in Religion somewhere and then a Ph.D., what else I have learned?

Oh, you want to know why Dr. Buckelew was right? A Master of Divinity (MDiv) takes about 90 hours. A Master of Arts (MA) takes 30. Then, either way you slice it, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) takes about 60 hours. That means you can either be a master in about 90, or hold a doctorate in about 90. What did I do? Not the smart thing.

That being said, I then spent several years completing what some people consider to be the required education to be a pastor. Whether or not that’s a valid view is another discussion. I did it in a variety of ways. I spent time on campus as a full-time student. I spent time taking intensive, one-week classes on campus. I did independent study courses online. I did online which featured video lecture. I think that I did almost every form of in-person and distance-learning class that was available. I missed out on the hybrid classes where you watch live feed of the classroom and participate via Zoom. My Internet connection couldn’t have handled it, anyway.

What did I learn? Aside from the subject matter you find on my transcript, I picked up these tidbits:

1. Those who want to learn will learn. Among those who have the means to be involved in school, some students want to do learn as much as possible. Some want a degree and to be done. Some want to hide from reality and stay in school.

None of the forms of higher education were exempt from that. There were guys who coasted in the classroom (and yes, they graduated that way.) There were guys who coasted through online life. The only place that really caught out slacking was the 1-week intensive, but you could still slack through the pre/post work.

Each form has limitations (especially if you have a learning style that doesn’t roll well with lecture/classroom), but nothing is more important than the learner’s desire to learner. As a corollary: even those without means to pursue formal education show this to be true. Those who want to know find ways. This is why LIBRARIES are important!

2. There is no substitute for asking professors questions, directly. While I mainly learned that doing Greek (in the 2nd term, after flailing about the 1st,) it’s true in any class. Ask. Clearly, politely, and in an informed manner. Don’t ask questions that are clear in the syllabus, required readings, and lectures. Don’t ask dumb questions like “will this be on the test?” If you want to know about tests, ask “How will my understanding of this be tested?” That gets to the core of whether you should memorize dates, facts, or minutiae…or learn to write a good analysis of those things which shows what you recall and are going to do with it.

That being said, if you are looking at higher education in a place with no access to professors, then look onward. I don’t mean that you should be able to camp on their couch all the time, but find out from students (and not just the handpicked ones admissions shows you) whether they feel comfortable contacting a professor. If they hedge…be aware. You’re possibly on your own. Note that your professors are going to be busy—respect that and don’t waste their time. But seeking help and guidance is not wasting their time. Email is beautiful for this: put all your questions and such together and send it on, waiting patiently for a response in a few days.

And no, “keeping professors in the workforce as well so they stay current” isn’t a substitute for connecting with them. Schools that don’t enable professors to be professors may be cheaper, but you need to evaluate that.

3. There is no substitute for the fellowship of your fellow students. Find a way to make it happen. I fell dreadfully short on this in all forms of education. It’s a lonely trip through, and a lonely time at the end.

4. Get educated and get to work, but do not neglect learning outside of your field. If you’re in the ministry realm realize that you need to work outside of that field enough to know what it would be like to do it for a lifetime. The flock God puts you with is doing just that. And yes, there are still people in churches who are astounded to find out that I used to work 60 hour weeks trying to make ends meet, just like a normal person.

5. Never stop learning. Part of the busy life is learning how to fit personal growth into a stacked-out day. You can shift what you learn, but never stop growing!

Just a few thoughts. Why? Because I’m starting to put together the plan to go back to it. The doors were shut on one plan, so I’m headed to a different plan, but it’s about time to get with it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Miracles and More: Matthew 9

In Summary:

Picking up in Matthew 9, we see the Lord Jesus performing miracles at the front and end of the chapter. Matthew is called as an Apostle in Matthew 9:9 and even though he is the author, his story takes barely a verse. He immediately follows up the story of his own calling with reference to the multiple tax collectors and other generic “sinners” that Jesus spent time with. Whether these people came to Jesus because He called Matthew or they were already drawn to the Lord is not clear from this passage. What is clear is the compassion and grace of Jesus and His embrace of those who were outcast from society. Even for those who were outcast by their own choice.

From there, we see teaching about fasting in response to questions, and then more miracles of healing. Matthew 9:18-26 tells the story of healing two women. One a young girl, the other an adult who had suffered for as long as the young girl had been alive. The contrasts are worth noting. For example, the girl’s parents sought out and asked for healing while the woman’s effort was to be healed quietly without bothering Jesus. Jesus takes note of her, though, and does not allow Himself to be just a healer. He will bring Himself into a relationship with those who want to be close to Him.

The chapter wraps with the healing of two blind men, the casting out of demons, and the summary of the need for workers in the harvest. The command to pray for harvesters in Matthew 9:37-38 is often used to encourage evangelism. In context, it is also relevant to compassionate work and overall care for people, as it is a response to seeing the people as “sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and our call is to bring people to Him.

In Focus:

Let’s take a closer look at Matthew 9:14-17. There are three key ideas in Jesus’ answer to the disciples of John. First, though, note that this is not a trap question like the Pharisees tended to ask. Instead, it is a reasonable assumption that the disciples of John had no interest in trapping Jesus. They simply needed to understand why Jesus was not requiring His disciples to do as they did.

Here are those three key ideas:

1. As in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3.) That includes a time to celebrate. It would be wrong for the disciples to weep in the presences of Jesus as if He were not there.

2. That there is a time for everything is also reflected in v. 15 where Jesus highlights that the disciples will fast, when He is taken away from them.

3. The above two are the practical outworking of the major point: not everything follows the same path. Spiritually speaking, there is a time for new things which do not fit into the old ways. That does not allow disposing of what is right: wine still goes into wineskins. Jesus does not tell John’s disciples that God has abandoned everything, but rather uses a metaphor of refreshing and restoring.

In Practice:

How do we make these three keys practical?

1. There is a time in your life, in the lives of others, to celebrate and rejoice. There are times when God has shown grace so greatly that to weep would not only be odd, it would be wrong. And to expect others to weep in those times because their exuberance does not feel right to you? Be cautious you do not force others into your box.

2. There is now cause in the lives of believers for weeping and fasting. We do not do so enough, either privately and secretly or corporately and openly. The church-at-large would do well to recapture the idea of fasting.

3. As we look at what it means to put the new wine into the right receptacle, a key caution is this: the major change in God’s work in this world was effected at the Cross. If you have a “new thing” that is different from the change from Old to New (and it isn’t the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus,) then check it hard against the truth of Scripture. Not against your imagination.

And on the opening observation: some questions are traps and tricks. Most, though, are honest efforts to understand. Remember that.

In Nerdiness:

1. Parallel passages for the healing of the woman and the girl are Mark 5:22-43 and Luke 8:41-56.

2. I find the difference in those two miracles most striking in the publicity. Notice that Jesus deliberately highlights the healing of the woman and speaks positively of her. (Calling her “daughter,” for example.) Everyone in the crowd would have known. But for the girl? He sends the crowd away and then raises her from the dead. Mark records an explicit command to keep this a secret (Mark 5:43.)

Why? Why attempt to keep one quiet and broadcast the other?

3. The Pharisaic complaint in 9:34 is similar to what launches the “House Divided” teaching in Luke 11:17-19.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Book: VIP by O.S. Hawkins

Yes, a book review. I think I remember what how to do these. And as a side note: V.I.P. from O.S. Hawkins? I’m tempted to make this whole thing acronyms and initials!

As is often the case: free book in exchange for the review! No money exchanged, no influence peddled. All opinions are my own, unless my wife tells me otherwise.

What does it mean to live with Vision, Integrity, and Purpose? (Other than the obvious of endorsing the Oxford Comma in the title, that is.) This little book, VIP, from O.S. Hawkins, the President of Guidestone Financial Resources, presents some of what that means. It is a little book, running about 120 pages of actual content with a footprint that’s about 5 inches by 7 inches.

Boiling this book down, what you have is a Biblically-oriented personal empowerment book. Hawkins is addressing, primarily, the first leg of the leadership triangle: manage yourself. The ideas he presents are about getting vision, integrity, and purpose right in our own lives. From there, Hawkins expresses that we become influential people after we become the right kind of person.

Peppered throughout are the two things that help bring the point home: Biblical passages and personal stories. The first connects the principles to the truth, the second demonstrates how to put the ideas into practice. The reading is easy, and the Biblical passages are not wrenched horribly out of context.

Overall, it’s not a bad little book. Having read others in the same leadership/personal growth space, it does not stand out except for its brevity. In this, it’s a good fit for someone whose response to books is “I don’t have time!”

A pretty good gift book for the developing leader in your life.

Again, free book in exchange for the review.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sermon Recap for April 3

Good morning! Here are the sermons from this past Sunday.

Morning Sermon: 1 Samuel 6 (audio)

 

Evening Sermon: John 3:16 (audio)

Worship Service Recaps for May 17

We’ve done another week of worship-via-Internet-connectivity. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this to be over. That covers Sunday ...