Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book: By the Waters of Babylon


Worship. It is what the church does as we strive to honor God with our lips and our lives. And then, many churches argue about worship. I have about a half-dozen books on my shelf about worship, but adding Scott Aniol’s By the Waters of Babylon to the shelf has been excellent.


First of all, Aniol’s work is not based on solving a musical debate. While that branch of worship is often the most troublesome in the local church, By the Waters of Babylon takes a broader view. The starting point is the place of the church. That place is a parallel of Psalm 137, where the people of God, Israel, found themselves in a strange land. The people of God, again, find themselves in a strange land.

Second, in summary, the book works logically to the text of Scripture, primarily Psalm 137 but well-filled with other passages. Then it works outward from how the text addresses the problems submitted in the first chapter into how worship, specifically corporate worship, should look in the 21st century Western World. The reading is easy to work through (and is aided by FOOTNOTES! over endnotes).

Finally, let us turn to the value of Aniol’s work. If you are in church leadership, you have dozens of books screaming out to be read. Or at least, you should. While the Bible is always our first look, we should take in the wisdom of many others. Is this one worth moving to the top of your stack?

It is. The biblical work is sound. The conclusions are well-grounded. In truth, if someone cannot work within the borders laid down in Aniol’s work here, then they are going to land more in entertainment than worship. This also works as a foundation for discussion in church leadership about worship disputes.

In all, this will move the discussion of worship from “hymns, choruses, drums, guitars…” to a better footing of Biblical truth and proper life as strangers and aliens in the current world.

(Book provided by Kregel Academic for review. Click HERE to read an excerpt.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Blessing at the End--Deuteronomy 33

In Summary:
Here we are, at the end of Moses’ life. We have seen him challenge the people to remember the law throughout their days, and now we see him proclaim a blessing on the people. Dueteronomy 33 records these words, and this is the last Moses will speak. The following chapter will be added to conclude the Pentateuch.
Each tribe is mentioned in the 28-verse poem, though some have more said of them than others. It is also important to note that much of the blessing is praise of YHWH, God of Israel. The idea is that one cannot bless the people of God without praising God Himself.
In Focus:
Rather than grabbing a particular tribe’s blessing to discuss, take a look at the Deuteronomy 33:29. From a “quotes” perspective, these are truly Moses’ last words. That is, except for telling Joshua, “I’m headed up the mountain. Later, dude.” Or whatever he says on the way out of camp in the next chapter.
He proclaims that the people of Israel are blessed. This is not because they have been amazing—looking back through the chapter, Moses is *still* reminding them of their failures at places like Meribah.
Instead, they are blessed because God has saved them. Because of this blessing, they are to remember what YHWH has done for them, and to trust Him as their shield and helper. He has saved them already, and they should trust Him to secure them throughout.
Of course, we are in possession of the whole story. We know that Israel will turn their back on God. They will walk away, seeking help and safety from the gods of the land they conquer. They forget God’s grace in saving them and the results are terrible.
In Practice:
We should keep in mind a few things about ourselves as we read this. First and foremost, we’re no better than Israel at the time. God has not saved anyone because that person was needed by God for any purpose. God saves out of His love and His grace.
If we start from that point, then we can move on to a few others. Like Israel listening to Moses here, we do not know how our story ends. Will we be faithful? Will we hold to the God who saved us? Or will we walk away?
We also need to consider the transitions in life ahead of us. Old generations pass on, new generations come. Are we prepared for that? Are we ready to hand off to the next generation, passing on the blessing of salvation to them?
Or do we hoard the blessing of God? He is the Eternal God, our dwelling place for all time. Let us rest in that.
In Nerdiness:
Jeshurun. Jeshurun? And it gets worse if you compare Deuteronomy 33:26 in NASB and ESV. Who is Jeshurun? It’s a Hebrew title that means “upright one.” It’s used of Israel in 32:15, 33:5, and Isaiah 44:2. There are some suppositions that the “Book of Jashar” reference in Joshua 10 is related to the name as well.
It appears to be a drop-in name that replaces Israel, used for the people. But that’s hard to nail down. We need to remember that cultural norms and everyday life in the time of Moses is far from clear to us. Most of what we “know” truly counts as surmised and assumed, not as definitely proven. We don’t see life then as we see life now. It’s not possible.
So we take some conclusions about how things worked, and go from there. Always remember to keep those conclusions in perspective, because evidence could arise that shows we need to redo them!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Politics: Matthew 14

In Summary:

Matthew 14 sees three important stories in the narrative of the life of Jesus. First, we see the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod and Herodias. Then, we see the feeding of the 5,000. The chapter wraps with the story of Jesus walking on the water.

The first story recounts the execution of John the Baptist. The story is told in retrospect. Matthew explains to the reader that Herod the Tetrarch (son of bad guy Herod the Great from earlier,) heard of Jesus and thought that Jesus might be John the Baptist resurrected. The reader, though, does not realize that John is dead. Therefore, Mathew fills in the gaps.

John is killed at the request of Herodias and her daughter. His disciples buried him and then informed Jesus. This incites the next event, the feeding of the 5,000.

Jesus, on hearing of the death of John, withdraws to a secluded place. Matthew does not tell us why Jesus does this, but one can draw reasonable conclusions. Jesus has lost a kinsman, both in birth and in mission. John could not do what Jesus came to do, but he still understood better than anyone that Jesus was the Lamb of God.

People found out about Jesus’ time away. And they followed. Rather than being angry, though, Jesus instead responds with compassion and heals them. Then He feeds them before sending them away. Plenty of ink, elsewhere, has been spent on how the miracle of multiplying a small lunch to feed a large crowd teaches us more than just God’s power of the elements.

After dismissing the crowd, Jesus also sends the disciples away. The stated purpose is to allow Him time to pray, alone. As an aside, if we never take the time to be alone to speak to God, we are might consider that even Jesus, God Incarnate, did so. We are probably not more spiritually capable than He. Jesus, on concluding His prayer time, then walked across the water to catch up with the disciples. Jesus and His encouragement to Peter in the storm and on the waves are worth remembering.

In Focus:

For focus, let us look at two things in this passage. One, though, we need to borrow from John 6:15.In that verse, we see that Jesus perceived the crowd’s response to the feeding miracle. They intended to start a revolution and make Him king.

Couple that with what John the Baptist had done to get imprisoned in the first place. He preached, clearly and directly, about the sinful behavior of Herod and Herodias. The chapter, then, begins and ends with a look at preaching and politics. We see John preaching clearly, while Jesus avoids taking a throne less than His worth.

In Practice:

While on the one hand, I’d like to say that we learn from John the Baptist and Jesus here to stay out of politics, I don’t think that’s the message. Just because John gets executed for preaching about politics, we are not guaranteed to make it through preaching the truth, either.

However, when we preach that truth, it is not for the purpose of attaining earthly power. That is the lesson from Jesus here. His throne is eternal and all-encompassing. He needed no revolution, and we need no throne but His to serve.

So we preach the truth, we live the truth, we stand for the truth. Not for the sake of power to ourselves, but for the hope of repentance of those around us.

In Nerdiness:

Nerds, unite! We have much to gather here. First, the historical situation with Herod and Herodias. This situation is confirmed in Josephus’ records, so we can connect it to a non-Biblical source. That helps with anchoring the timeline.

Second, we have the feeding of the 5,000. Remember the number is the men in the crowd, so there are likely more. Notice the simplicity of the child’s lunch—loaves and small fish. Fish that the disciples have probably caught their whole lives. And consider the twelve baskets of leftovers. One for every apostle? One for each tribe?

Third, the walking on the water. Read it several times, making sure to at least read it a few times without looking too much at Peter. Look at the rest. Then remember that Peter, at the very least, got closer to Jesus than the rest. Even in failure. Better to fail in trying to obey than to sit in the boat and stay safe.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sermon Recap for June 26

Good evening! Here are the sermons from June 26.

Sunday Morning: 1 Samuel 15 (audio)

Sunday Evening: 1 Samuel 16 (audio)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Parables and Travels: Matthew 13

In Summary:

Matthew 13 carries the story of Jesus continuing to teach in parables. He starts off teaching by the sea as large crowds gather and listen. Chrysostom makes the observation that Jesus, by sitting by the sea, ensured that no one would be behind Him. Chrysostom sees this as compassionate, with the goal that no one could fail to see Jesus. It is a good example of a practical detail that we would do well to think about.

From there, Matthew records the parables that Jesus taught. This chapter contains the parables of the sower, the tares among the wheat, the mustard seed, the treasure in the field, the pearl of great value, and the dragnet for fishing. Most of these are prefaced with the intro “The kingdom of heaven is like…” and then the parable examines the value of the kingdom. Another common facet of these parables emphasizes the response to hearing the news of the kingdom.

The chapter ends with the return of Jesus to Nazareth. To be specific, the text simply reads as “hometown” or “homeland,” but we understand that to be Nazareth. That it could be Bethlehem or another portion of Galilee is possible, given that he teaches in the synagogue. We tragically see that the residents are more fixed on what they already knew: Jesus grew up there! than on what He had to say.

In Focus:

Focus with me, for a moment, on two verses. Matthew 13:9 and Matthew 13:43 have a common refrain: “He who has an ear, let him hear.” Jesus is challenging His listeners to actually pay attention, not just let the words pass dully across their ears.

This is not the only time that sentiment is expressed in the Bible. Each of Jesus’ messages to the churches in Revelation conclude with the same sentiment. The commandment is not about physical ears, though. It’s about spiritual ears. It is both a challenge to the listeners and a rebuke to those who claim a high level of spiritual maturity in the face of Jesus’ preaching.

If they have ears, they will listen to Him. If they do not, well, they are mistaken in their claims of grandeur.

In Practice:

Pulling this forward to our time, what do we do? First, of course, we have to read the text in the first place. After all, those who do not read are no better off than those who will not. And perhaps, willful ignorance deserves a harsher judgment as well.

Second, though, we should keep in mind that it is not a difficult matter to determine who it is that hears God speak. Those who hear are those who obey, not those who claim to hear.

What does that mean for us?

Primarily, that our spiritual hearing can be measured by our obeying the word of God. That is, if we do not love our neighbors or do not obey the Great Commission (as examples), then we cannot claim to be hearing well. Which means that we should be very cautious how we teach if we do not hear well enough to obey.

The next aspect deals with our discernment of those who would teach and speak of God. Both in our lives and in the wider world, the temptation is to give great credence to those with flowery words or unique insights. Yet the Lord Jesus tells us that the one who has ears to hear is the one who hears. If someone is listening well enough to obey, then they are listening well enough to teach.

Evidence of growth in Christ matters and we who are listening should, nay, must, examine the practices teachers. If they are not hearing, then we must not listen.

Do, and listen to those who do.

In Nerdiness:

Some people take Matthew 13:58 as evidence that people’s faith is necessary for God to act. After all, it states that Jesus did not do miracles there because of their lack of faith. That means He couldn’t, right?

On the other hand, that could be taken as evidence that God is in control of what He does, and there is no commanding Him. Whether or not Jesus does any healing is His choice, and at times He may choose based on people’s trust.

And then, there’s one more possibility. If you review the miraculous events of the Gospels, how often does Jesus heal without the request of the one in need? It is a rare event—I cannot find one, myself. Jesus heals in response to the requests of His people. Perhaps the people of Nazareth were more convinced Jesus was mainly a good, moral, carpenter’s son than they He was the Son of God. They couldn’t open their eyes to the larger reality in front of them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sermon Recap for June 19

Good morning! After being out last week for the Southern Baptist Convention, I am glad to be back in my own bed. It was a good meeting of the Baptists. At least as well as can be expected.

Here are the sermons for the past couple of weeks:

June 12 AM Sermon (Audio)


June 12 PM Sermon


June 19 AM Sermon (Audio)


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Who Repents? Matthew 12

In Summary:

Matthew 12 opens with an incident in a field. Jesus and the disciples are passing through a field and, in line with Deuteronomy 23:24-25, the disciples pluck a few heads of grain, roll them in their hands, and eat. It was not stealing, and it was not wrong. Except they did this on the Sabbath.

Which leads into a discussion about the Sabbath laws and how God designed the Sabbath for a purpose. Excessive legalism, Jesus points out, was not that purpose. The following events show Jesus healing on the Sabbath, which is another violation of the technical rules the Pharisees had added to the Fourth Commandment (see Exodus 20:8-11.) The first question here is whether or not Jesus knows what the Ten Commandments (and the rest of the Law) meant. The Pharisees have their doubts about that. Jesus was around when the Law was written, though, so I’d side with His understanding.

We then see Jesus heal a demon-possessed man, which would be cause for celebration for any reasonable people. We’re dealing with Pharisees here, though, so reasonable is something to be hoped for rather than a certainty. The Pharisees here (and we can hope they are not representative of all the Pharisees ever) find that Jesus must be up to something with the demons rather than being against the demons. Jesus highlights the nonsense of that statement. This pairs with His declaration that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be tolerated—here we see Jesus show where His true allegiance is. He is part of the unbreakable reality that is the Triune God.

In Focus:

Let us take a close look at Matthew 12:38-39 today. First, see what the scribes and the Pharisees want. They want a sign. Essentially, they want to see Jesus perform a miracle to show that He’s legitimate. This comes after the Pharisees have condemned not one but two miracles in recent events.

Jesus turns the tables on them and points out that others have repented and believed with far fewer signs. He selects the city of Nineveh as one example—the capital of Assyria had, after all, repented at the simple preaching of Jonah. Jesus then points His accusers to the Queen of the South (the Queen of Sheba from 1 Kings 10) and highlights how she responded to Solomon’s wisdom. In both cases, the thought is finished with the statement that something greater than what those heathens had available is now here. This is also in 12:6 in reference to the Temple—some “thing” greater is here, and that “thing” is the Lamb of God.

The Israelites should have responded. They had the background information which neither Assyria nor Sheba had, the background relationship with God, and then they have God Himself present. Instead, they demand more signs. Jesus states unequivocally they will get one sign, and it is His resurrection.

In Practice:

It behooves us to pull a few practical points from this chapter. First and foremost: are we really any different in our asking God for signs about Jesus? Really? Very often we still want a sign. God, I’ll believe if…even in churches. We’ll believe we’re obeying if we see success. We’ll believe that someone is saved if they shape up and look like a traditional Baptist. We’ll think this…

But the sign we should depend on is the one we already have: He is risen!

Then, let us consider how we evaluate what God has done. We have one criterion to use, and it’s this: does it match with what God has said? Not whether it fits our likes and dislikes, but whether or not it conforms to God’s revealed word. If it does, then that should be all we need.

Let us stop being particular about the traditions of man, like not healing on the Sabbath, and focus on the Greater One who is here, now.

In Nerdiness: 

For all the nerds out there: take Matthew 12:36 to heart and think about useless and careless words. We tend to use them, and we ought not.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Sermon Recap for June 5

Another Monday. Another batch of sermons.

During June, we are going to take a look at Acts 2:42 and see how the principles of being committed to doctrine, fellowship, relationships, and prayer are shown in 1 Samuel 12, 13, 14, and 15. Then, we’re looking at how those apply forward into our lives. Why? Because all Scripture is inspired and useful. So let’s use it to understand what our lives of obedience are supposed to look like.

Morning Sermon: 1 Samuel 12 (audio)

 

Evening Sermon (audio)

 

June 5 AM: 1 Samuel 12 "A History of Repentance"

Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.


Connect: Honest accountability//apostle's teaching//historical faith

A. Doctrine: knowing with response

  1. Sunday School
  2. Small groups

Together    

  1. Bible Reading
  2. Devotional/spiritual

individually

B. Acting on doctrine

  1. Lifelong!
  2. Integrity

C. Sharing

  1. Face to face
  2. Relational Lives

D.O! 

  1. Help with VBS!
    1. Kids can! Bring, be here, so on...
    2. Youth! Show up and help out--join in. Lots to do!
    3. Adults--yes, you, adults can help! Take out trash, help with other stuff...lots to do!
  2. Mission Connect Wknd Oct 7-9
  3. Giving
  4. Telling
  5. Serving--if we say people matter, we will take up our opportunities and do!

Sermon and Service Recap for November 8

Looks like I forgot to post this! Thank you!