Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sermon Recap for May 29

To make space in the day for people to take part in the community Memorial Day service, we didn’t have evening services. A community remembrance service is a right and fitting manner of honoring the day, it was unfortunate to see it so lightly attended.

Morning Sermon was from John 10 (audio)

Please note that we are troubleshooting that hum you hear on the video.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

What can be said by someone living at peace and in security, with liberty intact and provided, about those whose lives were spent to secure that liberty?

Thank you sounds trite. Thank you may be a good start, but where does that really get us? Your wife is a widow now, here’s a thank you? Your children have lost their mother, here’s a thank you? Your child stood on that line between tyranny and freedom and never came back, so here’s a thank you?

Absolutely, we have a tremendous responsibility that we believe and behave as a “grateful nation” on whose behalf that folded American Flag was presented to a survivor. We must make sure that’s not just a speech.

We must go beyond that, though. What is it for lives to be spent for the liberty of a nation if we wantonly throw it away? If we use our liberty only for our pleasures and not for good of our neighbor?

Let us honor the lives given that we may be free in the best way possible: by not squandering what they have paid for. And let us not foolishly throw lives away for anything less than that liberty ever again.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Two months and Counting

Two months until what?

Until I go to Peru. I’m going with TCWM to Trujillo, Peru, to work with…whatever it is they tell me to work with. I’m going to spend a couple of weeks meeting people, talking about Jesus, and hopefully doing a bit of preaching.

Why Peru?

A couple of reasons: First, Dr. Julio Montalvo (see here) is from Peru. He honored us with a visit, and I’d like to return the favor. And, we need to get started as a church being involved in spreading God’s Word to the world. So a trip to one place where we already know one person seemed like a good start.

Second, there is a strange dynamic that is common in churches. Churches that are stagnant in their communities often don’t know how to get started—but then as they partner with the people of God around the world to reach other communities, we start to see how to reach our own community. It’s as if our creative nature stalls out, or worse, our compassion fails us, and we don’t really try that hard.

That is one of my hopes for going to Peru. That I will come back more engaged with the task of reaching the lost. And by extension, I can help the body of Christ that is East End Baptist Church to go forward doing the same thing.

And we will, hopefully, see a few return trips. The last thing I’m interested in developing is sanctified tourist trips. We can help people use their normal tourist trips in a sanctified manner. That’s not the purpose of a church mission trip. A “mission trip” should be one of two things: establishing a base to share the Gospel of Jesus in a place where no one is doing so or working with Christians in an area to help them reach their people.

In other words, I’m not going to Peru in hopes that I’ll be the one who brings the Gospel to Peruvians. Certainly I hope to do some of that. But my real intention is to help churches in Peru however it is they need and want help to reach their own community. Why? I’m not planning on living in Peru. Although it does have great coffee and I like what I see about the climate…

Why not some other places? Honestly, we still have other spaces I want our church involved on mission. Honiara, Solomon Islands, is tops on the list. Our church can be more involved in some stateside areas. We have friends in work in Southeast Asia, in Europe, and Africa.

I still want to see our family involved in Eastern Europe. (My dream tourist trip is Ireland/Scotland, but I’m sure we could find some practical stuff to do there.) I have a hunger to return to Lawrence, Kansas, (and surrounding areas) for ministry work. I’m not even sure why.

So this isn’t the end. It’s a beginning. I’ll chronicle some of that journey here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sing it with Moses!: Deuteronomy 32

In Summary:

Moses composes a song for the people of Israel. It’s not a love song. It’s not a rock song. It’s a reminder song. This chapter is, primarily, the “Song of Moses.” You can connect it with the “Song of Moses” in Exodus 15. (Which Miriam taught to many and it became part of the celebration of the people.) This song, though, is not just celebratory. It is also a warning song. The layout matches a “lawsuit” format, where Moses presents God’s allegations against Israel.

The Song should be seen as a proactive warning, though, and not a reaction. At least not as of yet: Moses is presenting the past of Israel and the potential future of Israel. If they heed Deuteronomy 32:2, though, they will avoid this collapse. This is, practically speaking, the consequences side of the “Terms and Conditions,” spelling out how a breach of the covenant will be handled.

As to the poetic or musical nature of the Song of Moses, it is evidenced by the Hebrew form. Beyond that, we do not have a tune or instrumentation for the Song. Taking apart all of the imagery would be the work of much more time than we have here. One aspect that stands out is how often God is referred to as the Rock.

In Focus:

Rather than take a portion of the Song, which is well worth your time, I’d like to draw your attention to Deuteronomy 32:46-7. Moses has not written this for the purpose of indicting the people. He is striving to remind them and provide the path to walk in obedience and avoid the negative side of these events.

This is why it’s recorded in a song type. It’s easier to remember that way, and from the song that should be on everyone’s lips in recitation, they will find a reminder to go back to the Law and the full covenant. As Moses reminds them, this is not just words. This is their life, the totality of who they are as God’s people: the work God has done in their lives and the worship they owe him in their life.

In Practice:

Practically speaking, the first question for us is “What drives our music?” This is valid whether we are talking about church music, music we listen to as Christians, or music in general. What drives it? Are we driven to listen to what we ought to be? Driven to listen to what we are? Or what we shouldn’t be? Do we let what we take in bring to mind the fullness of our life or push us away from it?

Second, what is the fullness of our life? Is it the stuff we have or the relationship we have with God? And keep in mind: there is precious little here about an “individual relationship with God.” This is the stuff of a group of people walking before God together. Are we doing that? Or are we trying our hand at solo Christianity?

Third, we can look ahead and see the consequences of willful disobedience, just like the Israelites could. Do we avoid it? Or plunge right into it?

In Nerdiness:

Notice the next step is for Moses to die and hand off leading the people. I also find some interesting thoughts to the shift from “Lord said to Moses…” to “Moses spoke…” While it’s all inspired by God, there is almost a different feel to the Mosaic summary.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book: Core Christianity

Author’s note: Well, I’m a touch behind on book reviews, so I’ll be trying to catch up on them. Most of the books I will review are ones provided (given, free, not-paid-for-by-me) to me for review. None of the sources require anything but an honest review.

If you search Amazon.com for “Core Christianity,” you’ll find several books with that title. And a few others that don’t have anything like it in their title. In fairness to author Michael Horton, the full title here is Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story. Being a big fan of Horton’s The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, I wanted to read this less-than-textbook sized offering. After all, this one’s 192 pages instead of 1056…and hurts less when you drop it on your foot!

With that being said, it’s also worth noting that Horton approaches theology from a Reformed perspective. (He’s the author of For Calvinism, after all.) That being said, Core Christianity looks at theology from a broad enough perspective that even Baptists who blanch at words like “predestination” can benefit from it.

First, Horton addresses theology from a practical angle. The subtitle is not false advertising: this book is about how we as people fit in the work of God. He has taken the time, throughout, to provide background information showing how the specific doctrines of the faith mentioned are truly universally held.

Rather than dwelling on the finer points of theology, Horton has focused on central tenets such as the Trinity and the Incarnation of Jesus. That is how this attains the goal of being about “Core” Christianity. I am not quite ready to put this alongside Mere Christianity, but I can readily see it as a basic discussion text for small groups of Christians wanting to grow.

I can readily recommend this one for growth in Christ.

Free book? Y:ep. Influence? Maybe, but I did buy the much more expensive academic version of it, so it’s not like I’m a mindless drone. More like a theology book nut who somehow gets small books free and buys big ones.

Sermon Recap for May 22

Well, I was gone May 22. Ann and the kids and I were off, vacationing and stuff. Bob Fielding, a good friend and part of the Missions Team for Arkansas Baptists, brought the Word of the Lord for us at East End Baptist Church. He did well…although he should have preached a little longer. No telling when we’ll get good preaching again. Oh, wait, yes there is: July 31. David Mason from the Central Baptist Association will be preaching while I’m in Peru. (No, that’s not code for anything. I’m going to Peru.)

Then, August 24 through 28th, Dr. Emil Turner will be preaching. So there’s a couple of opportunities ahead!

Meanwhile, Bob Fielding:

 

Also, I’d like to encourage you to consider installing the East End Baptist Church App on your phone. It doesn’t get you discounts or anything, but in due time it will make it easy for you to see sermons and other content from us!

Apple:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/east-end-baptist-church/id1105686882?ls=1&mt=8
Android:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sharefaith.sfchurchapp_9b37b91d67fee657

Monday, May 23, 2016

A week in the woods

Well, we’re back from spending the week at Tim’s Ford State Park near Winchester, Tennessee. While we were there, we dropped down to the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama and drove over to the Lodge Cast Iron Factory Store. We also made a list of other things to check out the next time we are there!

Here’s a few observations as we get back to normal life around here:

1. Second plans can be better than first plans. The first plans were to stay in a hotel for 2 nights to do the Space Center, then go stay with friends or other hotels to finish off. The friends part slipped through so we had to improvise. The change was to find a cabin that was more nights for the same money. We did, and were much better off. The pace of life, relaxing in the cabin, was much better than constantly having to be in the midst of everything.

Of course, that meant we cooked more meals. But that was better as well.

2. There’s something about going away that makes home a touch more “homey.” That was almost the primary benefit of the trip. We came “home” to our place here in Little Rock.The absence made it feel more like home. Our stuff is here. Our books are here. The one surviving cat is here.

And we’re growing into realizing that our relationships and friendships are here. This is home, even though it took leaving for a little while to recognize it.

3. Social media is tough on vacations. On the one hand, you want to tell people where you are. On the other hand, you don’t want to tell people your house is empty and ready to be ransacked. Plus, do you really want to see the bragging that I got to go on vacation? Even if it was a nerd trip?

4. James the Big Cow is not happy that he didn’t get to go into the Space Center.

5. Rest is crucial. One thing that we have to do (all of us, not just me) is learn to rest. Activity does not equal usefulness—nor does inactivity equal peace and calm, but that’s not the point—activity is just activity. We are not machines nor gods, we are human. And that means we need, from time to time, to detach and recharge. Our emotional and mental health need it.

Those are some of my reflections from our week in the woods. We’re plotting next year’s week in the woods already. Probably same place, just a different time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Book: A Commentary on the Psalms (vol. 3)

A Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 3Today, I’d like to introduce you to a new friend who is third member of a good family. That friend is Volume 3 of Allen P. Ross’s Commentary on the Psalms. This one covers Psalms 90-150. I’ve previously reviewed Volumes 1 and 2. (Spoiler alert: I liked both of them.)

Now, some of you may be wondering why anyone would consider a volume 3 without already having volumes 1 and 2. Or why a review of the 3rd installment is necessary. For those who have either of the first 2 volumes (or both!,) you already know what you’re getting. This work stands on equal footing with them and if you liked what you saw there, you’ll want this to round out the set.

The reason one might want this volume on its own? That comes back to the nature of Biblical Studies and the length of the Psalms in the first place. You may be studying the latter portion of the Psalms and need to jump at Psalm 119. If that’s the case, you need to know if you should jump in here or not.

First of all, if you do jump in at Psalm 119, you’ll encounter the most in-depth treatment I’ve seen in a commentary of Psalm 119. Following the pattern of this series, Ross provides a translation of the complete Psalm, deals with any textual issues relevant to the Psalm, and then works through how the Hebrew language is used in the writing. He then develops the use of the Psalm in its probable original setting.

The major absence in this volume (and the others) is that Ross does not spend much space on the historical setting of the Psalm. The greater focus is on the grammatical structure of the Psalm. There is more historical information for those Psalms with title verses, but even these are going to push you to do your own Old Testament research.

Overall, I highly recommend Ross’ A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 3. He provides insight into the Hebrew language and poetry of each Psalm and presents the information well for pastors and teachers who want to better express what God has said in this portion of His Word.

 

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sermon Recap for May 15 2016

Yesterday was a normal Sunday at East End Baptist Church. It was, actually, the only normal Sunday we’ll have this month. This coming Sunday will see Bob Fielding from Arkansas Baptists as our guest preacher.

Morning Sermon: Irrelevant Heritage: John 9 (audio)

 

 

Evening Sermon: Acts 2 (audio)

 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Wrestling with the Winds

It’s been a little quiet around here for too long. I’m sorry about that. I’m not sorry that you’ve been able to invest your reading time in other ideas that might have been more helpful. And it may even be that you have slipped away and won’t come back. That’s okay. I value all seven of my readers, but I understand. Life is busy.

Where have I been? I’ve been right here, staring at the screen. Admittedly, most of that staring has been for work purposes. Even when I’m not writing here on the blog, I’m typically constructing two sermons and a Bible study per week. Plus prepping for a Sunday School class that I really need to get working better.

And alongside that, I’m trying to get back into language learning so that I can reopen my pursuit of a doctorate. Throw into all of this our current cultural milieu of political nonsense, and it’s just been a great time to write.

That is, unless you can’t seem to find what you want to say. Some of this is, honestly, a result of wanting to be liked and effective in what I write. What do I mean?

Think about it like this: if nobody likes me, then they don’t read what I write. Which means that there’s no sense in writing it if it won’t be read. And, since I keep comparing myself to the wrong statistics pack, it looks like not enough people read what I write…so they don’t like me and there’s no reason to do it.

This is, though, more of a wrestling with the wind than a reality. Wrestling with the wind was a commonplace reality when we lived on the Grand Prairie of Arkansas. You could go outside and try to get somewhere—and the stout prairie winds kept you from getting there without a lot of extra effort! You spent your time fighting the wind, but the wind was never there when you wanted a rematch.

Struggling with those winds is the best comparison I have to the mental and emotional struggles that I’ve had of late. Some days, I have walked against the wind all day, and have found that I made exactly zero progress. Other days, I’ve gone out and found all my energy was well-used because the wind of resistance wasn’t there.

The worst days, though, are the days spent waiting for the wind to come. You have this practically—well, I can’t work on the roof leak today, the wind may blow up and stop me. I need to do this and not that, but the wind will stop me. A fear of frustration that leads to inaction.

In short, a wrestling with the winds and their capricious nature.

And that’s what I’ve been doing. In some cases, the reasons are my own and will not be put out in public. Some of those winds are common to many—I claim no exclusive rights to self-doubt or any of the other challenges around me.

That’s just where I am. This coming week, the family and I will take a vacation. Not from our senses, hopefully. But from some of our everyday chaos. As we do that, I think one of my main goals is to adjust my windscreens and just handle what needs doing. There is nothing for it—the winds that have blown are gone, and revenge won’t work.

How, though? One is to determine not to face the winds until they are blowing. The second seems contrary to it, but it’s this: have a plan to adjust when the winds blow. Maybe the wind will affect the course, and if so, then take on whatever options are available. Grab the work ahead of us, even if it means tacking into the wind.

All that to say: there are plenty of obstacles, small and large, to be overcome in life. Grab ahold of what you need for strength and get it done.

Sermon recap from May 8

So, I’m a little late with this. Sorry about that.

Sermon: John 8 (audio)

 

By way of reminder/announcement: May 22 will see Bob Fielding as our guest preacher.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Malachi and Elijah: Matthew 11

In Summary:
We come now to Matthew 11. Jesus has sent the Twelve out to preach and has Himself gone to preach. Matthew records His destination as “their cities” (Matthew 11:1) but there are few comments on this. John Chrysostom (cited in the Ancient Christian Commentary series) suggests that Jesus separated Himself from where the Twelve were so that they would have the opportunity of doing the ministry themselves. After all, who talks to Peter if Jesus is available?

Jesus then receives a delegation from John the Baptist. John is in prison but has been keeping up with Jesus and His work. John wants to assure himself that Jesus is the one that he was waiting for, so he asks. Jesus points out the evidence of His ministry and sends the delegation back to John. This is another potential reason Jesus has separated Himself from the Twelve at this time: no one could claim the Twelve were helping Jesus fake anything.

The chapter wraps up with Jesus lamenting over the judgment coming to the unrepentant. He speaks of the generation that hears Him and how they ignored John for his ascetic lifestyle, and how they now condemn Jesus for His non-ascetic lifestyle. Further, the miracles of Jesus will serve to condemn the cities of Israel in the judgment. Why? Because the pagan cities, the Gentile cities, would have responded to the evident grace of God. Living in the presence of God’s grace brings trouble for those who do not respond to it.

In Focus:
Take a good look at Matthew 11:10. Or perhaps at Malachi 3:1, since Jesus quotes Malachi’s prophecy here. (For the record, the only way to quote yourself and not look arrogant is when you are God Almighty. Malachi speaks a prophecy, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit is God, and Jesus is God, then Jesus is quoting Himself, in a Trinitarian sort-of-way.)

Jesus takes Malachi’s prophecy and declares the prediction fulfilled in John the Baptist. Further, in Matthew 11:14, Jesus declares the John is also Elijah who was prophesied to come. In other words, all of the “forerunner” necessities to the coming of the Messiah were taken care of, and in a person who came and was rejected as if he were demon-possessed (Matthew 11:18).

The prophecies, then, were fulfilled in the way God intended. Just because the Pharisees and other religious leaders misunderstood them and then acted badly upon them did not make God unfaithful. Nor did it make God unpredictable—God was as predictable as He intended! People just missed the point.

In Practice:
Practically, I would note a few things. First is on the subject of prophecy in general: just because you think you understand it does not mean you do. The Scribes, et al., thought they had it all down pat. And either they deliberately blinded themselves or they just got it wrong. We would do well to remember that we could get it wrong as well.

Second, still on prophecy, is that we should see that God understands exactly what He meant. Which means that, for example, Jesus will come back at just the right time. No matter what any of us say in objection to it! He could show up tomorrow, though some would argue that Revelation or Daniel or Ezekiel show He shouldn’t have come back yet.

Third is this practicality: God has a plan which runs across the centuries and millennia. It is ours to walk in obedience to Him, with eyes wide open and hearts committed to obedience. Let His plan be what it should, and go out when He says to go. Go forth to where He says to go.

In Nerdiness:
Point 1: “Malachi” means “my messenger” in Hebrew. That means that Malachi 3:1 could read “I will send Malachi” before you…which makes John the Baptist Malachi and Ezekiel. Or, potentially, “Malachi” is a pseudonym for whoever that prophet really was. He served as the “messenger of God” and so worked under the name Malachi. Not a bad thing, really, because it’s not about him. Which is part of why I don’t mind people calling me “pastor” without throwing on a name. I don’t care about the title for me, but it builds an anonymous memory: “We had a pastor who helped us….” Rather than “Doug was awesome.” (Not that I mind being awesome or being called awesome. But I do need the humility.)

Point 2: I am surprised by the lack of comments in commentary on 11:1. I guess there’s just not much to say.

Point 3: “Baptist” should be taken as “Immerser.” Just have to get that plug in for Baptists!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tools of the Trade: Digital Organization

A couple of weeks ago, I ran through a few of my in-print organizational resources. Moving on from there, I thought I’d share the three main tools I use for keeping up with items digitally. These flow together—I set aside a spot to sync up print and digital once a week, which takes the real organization tool: discipline. Without that, none of the rest of this matters!

1. Nozbe: after meandering around for the past several years, I’m back to Nozbe as my task/project outline software. First, I use a project management software because it provides a different way to organize tasks and events—I can see them by responsibility while they still all end up on the same calendar. I can enter them the same way. Second, I like Nozbe because it will automatically pick up Evernote reminders and add them to the task list. The task list then links over to Google Calendar. In essence, Nozbe lets me aggregate tasks that way. And yes, many times I enter “events” as “tasks” just to populate the calendar. That does not mean family time is a burdensome “task.” Just that it needs doing!

Nozbe has two shortfalls for me. One can be solved by entering events onto Google Calendar instead. It’s the recurring task structure. For example, I have meetings the 2nd Monday of every month. Nozbe’s recurrence system can’t handle that—I can program it for every 4 weeks, which eventually breaks down (it has already this year)-or I can program every month. That gives me a task the same date, not the same day. Google Calendar handles it. 

The other is one that I have not resolved, and it’s the one thing that had me using Todoist for awhile. I have dependent tasks. As a pastor-teacher and writer, I have recurring dependent tasks. For example, the steps to a sermon. Each week, it’s translate the passage. Then correct and compare the translation. Then it’s outline and observe in the passage for meaning. Then it’s… (you get the point.) I’d like to be able to nest those tasks so that the process dynamically flows. That’s the other reason for a task manager: every day can be different and every week even worse. So, being able to have tasks show up and stay “on-top” of the list until done is helpful. I’d like to have this flow better for dependent tasks. Otherwise, Nozbe’s simplicity is beautiful.

2. Evernote: Google it. I first had Evernote when I got a Blackberry in 2008. Had no idea what to do with it. Now I don’t know what I will do without it. Almost everything goes into Evernote. Anything that doesn’t is mainly something that’s missing a plan to get it in there. I’m still hesitant to store crucial financial stuff in Evernote. Which is odd, since I store it in Quicken and my laments over that are growing daily.

Evernote lets you store and share information. It lets you set reminders on information. If you write book reviews, it’s a no-brainer for a way to keep up with what books you should be reviewing. And your notes on them. As a student, I can store all sorts of useful data. Evernote deserves its own post, but suffice it to say that it’s worth your time to learn and your money for Pro.

3. Google Calendar: everything on a calendar, which then makes it all shareable. Plus, GCal syncs across devices and platforms. The one thing it does not do, other than put stuff on itself for you, is put everything onto one calendar. I have my calendar and then there is my Nozbe generated calendar. In the coming year, we’re going to generate an East End Baptist Church Google Calendar. It will all display on one page, but that’s not the same as on “one calendar.”

Those are some of the technology tools I keep in the box. They help. Discipline, though, remains the key.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sermon Recap for May 1

Ok, I’m back to Sermon Recaps on Tuesday due to unforeseen circumstances. Good thing we’re not in the middle of a prophecy seminar, true?

Morning service saw a guest preacher, Dr. Julio Montalvo. Dr. Julio Montalvo serves as the president of the Seminario Teol√≥gico Bautista de Trujillo - Asociaci√≥n Tom Cox (Baptist Theological Seminary of Trujillo Peru, in Association with Tom Cox).  In addition, he is currently serving his second consecutive term as the president of the Peruvian Baptist Convention.

Here is the audio on his sermon—you’ll hear him and Dr. Ken Bowie, retired IMB Missionary, who interpreted.

 

The evening saw our first 5 Minute Sermon night, where several of our men preached for, you guessed it, no more than 5 minutes. They all did quite well.

Worship Services Recap for July 12

Here is what you’ll find: there is an audio player with the sermon audios built-in to it, just click to find the one you want. You’ll also f...