Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Punish or discipline?

One of the things I like to do is read the “Odd News” sections of various websites. After all, the deliberately odd seems preferable to the unintentional farce that is American politics right now. Seriously, folks, when they told us in Civics that “anyone” can be president, that wasn’t a challenge to see how we could scrape the barrel. Do we really want to choose between the Democrat’s political dynasty in the Clintons or the Republican Reality Realty guy in Trump? 300 Million people, 180-200 million easily over 35, and this is the best we can get?

Anyway, not out for a political bloodbath today. Instead, take a look at this story: Switched at Birth. TL:DR? Two friends discovered that 41 years ago, they were switched at birth in a Canadian hospital. This is the second case of switching kids from that hospital in that era. Now, that is a bad thing. And it is even worse if it was related to neglect because it was a hospital run by the government for the Cree Nation. (Not going to take too big of a shot at government run hospitals…)

What I want to take note of is that now, 41 years later, the government is investigating what happened and the families involved are suggesting there could be criminal charges involved. 41 years later, how many people are still working at that hospital? Maybe the 16 year old kid who started as a mop-boy is now the chief of facilities maintenance, but he didn’t mix up babies. What good does it do now? Is it not a little late? To get the facts cleared up, the what went wrong straightened out?

Now, before I go further, I do think some investigation is warranted. And some effort should be made to make sure there have been no other mistakes waiting 40 years to be uncovered. But if this hospital is like any other in these days, they have already adopted rules and guidelines to prevent this happening again. Any holes found in 40 year old procedures are likely irrelevant. It’s like figuring out that “211” would be quicker to rotary dial in case of emergency than “911.” Does that make a difference now?

Not really.

We are often this way, though. We spend so much more time figuring out what went wrong so that we can find someone to blame than we do trying to move forward in the first place. We do this in churches, where we will hold someone responsible for a plan going wrong 20 years ago to the point of hobbling them for what they should be doing now. We do this in life—how many times does one half of a married couple hold on to “what went wrong” 10 years ago? Yes, your husband screwed up a repair job. He may have learned. Yes, your wife may have fallen off the roof last time she fixed the leak—maybe she’s developed a better sense of balance.

The point is: many mistakes and errors should be corrected as quickly as possible, but hand-wringing decades later does very little good. Take a look at history. We can learn from what happened that led to World War 1, but we can’t undo it, can we? Why punish the Serbs today?

Set it aside, if possible, and fix the problem. Then move forward.

Now, a note before you go: some things need dealt with, no matter how long it has been. There is no sunset on issues like abuse—just because it was decades ago doesn’t mean we should not deal with it now. Likewise if there is a continuing problem, like we see in some issues of equality in our nation. We need to openly discuss them.

This is more about lesser things—or the desire to jail octogenarians over the mistakes of youth. It’s about our unwillingness to separate true intentional harm from mistakes. Punish intentional harm; discipline mistakes that they can be learned from.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Faithful in All Matters: Joshua 1

In Summary:

Joshua’s story continues as his eponymous book begins. We’ve heard of Joshua already, going back to Exodus 17, so we know that Joshua is in the generation that exited Egypt under Moses’ leadership. He was likely a leader within the Israelite community already, as his first mention places him as a military leader during the battle with the Amalekites. From there, he becomes Moses’ servant (Numbers 11:28) and is selected as one of the twelve spies in Numbers 13. He brings a positive report, though it is rejected by the ten spies as well as the people of Israel.

Joshua 1, then, is not his introduction but his time to step out of the shadows and into the leading role. In doing so, God charges him to be “strong and courageous.” God repeats Himself three times (1:6, 1:7, 1:9) in commanding this—which means that He is quite serious about it. Strong here is connected to “binding tightly” or “being firm.” It’s not just about physical strength but also about mental and emotional fortitude. It is strength as a spiritual value. Courageous is connected to having a firm heart, a decided heart. Joshua is commanded by God to firm, to hold tightly, to be decided. And if God saying so three times is not enough, the people tell him the same thing. Just once, though.

In Focus:

Having said all that about Joshua, let us put the focus on the hero of the book of Joshua. His name is found in Joshua 1:1, 1:9, 1:11, 1:13, 1:15, and 1:17. Who is it? It is YHWH, the Lord God of Israel. While the book of Joshua looks, at first glance, like a chronicle of the exploits of the Joshua the Conqueror, it is actually the covenant fulfillment record of the God of Israel.

Remember, after all, that Deuteronomy is a record of the covenant between YHWH (the divine name of the God of Israel) and the people of Israel. This is a bilateral, or “if-then” covenant. If the people do this, then God will do that. The first “if” is on God’s part: He must deliver the people into the land first. Then the covenant as stated becomes operative. Take a look, then, at Joshua 1:2-3. God reminds Joshua of His promise to the people of Israel. Throughout this chapter, we see two things restated: the promise of God to be faithful to His covenant, and the promise of the Israelites to act just like they have for forty years (Joshua 1:17).

Despite this, God remains faithful to Himself and His Word.

In Practice:

Practically speaking, we should take courage and strength from the promises of the Faithful One, the Lord God Almighty. We either live in complacent times or in strange and interesting ones. If it appears easy to walk in obedience to God, let us take courage to re-examine whether or not we truly are being faithful to God. After all, it is not uncommon for the church-at-ease to falter in our obedience. The history of the “Bible belt” or other zones of Christendom demonstrate that quite well.

If we live in strange and interesting times (a euphemism for difficult days), then we need strength. Strength to stand as the world falters around us, strength to trust that God has our eternity in His hand. After all, if eternity is in His hand, then next Tuesday will be right as well. Right, of course, in His perspective. Not necessarily ours.

Living with courage and strength will drive us to proclaim the word of God no matter what befalls us. As we look at Joshua, he was given one conditional command. One thing to draw his strength from: the book of the law given by God. In other words, the covenant. He had God’s promises, God’s words, to keep in his mind and on his lips. Let us do that, and so draw others to the same covenant. The God of the Promise did not change when the human leadership changed, and it will not change no matter how the seasons pass.

In Nerdiness:

A few thoughts:
1. Dimensions of the Promised Land? From the “Wilderness” to Lebanon, as far as the Euphrates and the Mediterranean. Assuming, of course, that “Mediterranean” is the right idea for the Great Sea and it’s not the Atlantic. Which is probably a reasonable assumption. We never saw Israel stretch that far, but…
2. “Joshua” is drawn from the words meaning “YHWH saves.” The Greek equivalent? “Ihsous.” That’s right: “Jesus.” How far do the lands of the Kingdom of Jesus stretch?
3. Think through the Israelites’ promise. They are going to obey just like they did with Moses. Have you read Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy? Who do they think they are fooling?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sermon Recaps for Revival

We had five excellent sermons from Dr. Emil Turner for our fall revival meetings. I’ve got all of them embedded below, in case you weren’t able to attend.

 

 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sermon Recap for August 21

Good morning! Here is Sunday morning’s sermon from East End Baptist Church. (Audio here)

First, though, an even better thing than a sermon. Baptism!

I. Our Danger

A. Prosperity

B. Want

II. Our Need

A. Real Nourishment

B. Real Relief

III. Our Hope

A. The offer of grace

B. The speaking God

IV. Our Witness

A. To us: the heavens

B. To all: the Word

C. From us: as joyful people

D. From all: the righteous judgment

V. Our Response
A. Seek

B. Repent

C. Worship

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A bit of a rant

First of all, I'm really tired of people trying to make political capital out of human disasters. Nobody in Louisiana needs to be a talking point. They need a dry bed, food, and income to bridge their employers being back open so they can go back to work.

Beyond that, though:

in 1997, there were severe tornadoes in Arkansas. Including one where I lived. The President of the United States came, toured the damage, and his security detail and such were a bit of a disruption to work efforts. In 2005, there was a disaster called Katrina on the Gulf Coast. The President of the United States stayed away for a while, claiming that he didn't want to get in the way of relief/rescue efforts. Now, in 2016, the President of the United States is saying the same thing regarding the disaster without a name in Louisiana.

Here's the deal: in 2005, the President was right, and in 2016, the President is right. I saw that in a smaller disaster in 1997. You don't have a President to do the hands-dirty work. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is better at it, anyway. There are two basic problems here:

The first is that people still need to be aware that the President, symbolic of the nation, cares. That is hard to reconcile with either flyovers or four irons. That's the President's issue to fix. But cut the POTUS some slack: there is always at least some part of the United States in crisis. ALWAYS.

Our issue is this: most of us are being stupidly inconsistent. In 2005, many people of one view thoroughly agreed that the President of the United States is just in the way in an ongoing disaster and needs to keep out. Those are the some of the same people who now want the President of the United States punished (in some way) for not keeping out.

Then there was the other side, which pilloried the President of the United States for staying out. Now, this one is justified to stay out of the way.

Folks, if we make inconsistent demands of our governmental leaders, we will get....INCONSISTENT GOVERNMENTAL LEADERS. "Leaders" who wait for opinion polls and serve their best interests on however the winds are blowing at the moment.

That's what we've got. That's what we have running in this election, too. We have the government we asked for, at the ballot box and the public forum, in the newstainment industry and in social media.

Now, delete that long-winded post about how President B is better than C ever was or how this candidate will actually be different. Go give blood, find an organization delivering relief supplies, or volunteer to feed the hungry where you are. Help rebuild the relationships that we ought to have.

Rant over.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Turning: Matthew 16

In Summary:

Matthew 16 begins a serious turn in the ministry of Jesus. He has been teaching about the Kingdom of God, but now His actions shift toward the final phase of earthly ministry. He has taught many things, but now His teaching will focus on why He is headed to the Cross. At least, as far as Matthew goes.

Matthew 16 finds Jesus back in the traditional land of Israel, near the Sea of Galilee (Magadan in 15:39 is likely another term for the region of Magdala, in Galilee.) The Pharisees and Sadducees are here to greet Jesus on His return from Tyre and Sidon. Though He has been healing the sick and proclaiming the truth of God, they are not here with a fruit basket and a welcome mat.

They are here with questions. Questions, after all, are a great way to trap someone. A well-formed question provides benefits to the questioner no matter how it is answered. Unless, of course, one is questioning the Lord God Almighty. Then it does not turn out so well. The Pharisees and Sadducees want a sign from Jesus. If He does one on command, then they are in control. If He refuses, they can claim He is unable.

Instead, Jesus hits them with a challenge: why are they asking Him for signs? Are they dense? Jesus is aware that they will not believe no matter what He says, so He doesn’t waste the time answering them. They get one sign: His resurrection.

Jesus then warns the disciples not to take in the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, though the disciples miss the point initially. It is worth noting how Jesus illustrates false teaching: it is like a little yeast that affects a whole loaf of bread. It may not look like much, but it will spread out.

In Focus:

I cannot come through Matthew 16 without putting Matthew 16:13-20 under the microscope. This is the turning point of the Gospel of Matthew—prior to this, Matthew shows Jesus as a miracle-working teacher. After this, Matthew shows Jesus as the Messiah, bound for the Cross. (Yes, that’s a bit of a simplification but it bears up.)

What occurs in these verses? Jesus asks the disciples a question. A simple one: “Who do people say I am?” (16:13). The disciples give Him back a report on His public standing, that Jesus is recognized by the people as some form of prophet.

The Lord Jesus is not satisfied with this answer. He then turns the question to the disciples: “What about you?” Peter gives Him the truthful answer: You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God. That answer is praised by Jesus and then He warns the disciples to keep this to themselves.

In Practice:

The first step, practically, is to answer the Matthew 16:15 question ourselves. The world says this and that about Jesus, but who do you say that He is? Who do I say that He is? He is the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord of All. We have the benefit of being on this side of the Tomb, so we won’t make Peter’s mistake of 16:22-23 and try to keep Jesus from the Cross, but we need to be aware of the danger. After all, it is easy to seek a Jesus that did not sacrifice, so that we would not be required to do so, either.

The second step is to examine the rest of the chapter and answer those questions from Jesus. What profit is it to gain the world and forfeit our souls? What do we have to offer for our souls? Nothing, we have nothing.

So we must, in response to the truth that Jesus is truly the Son of God, take up our cross and follow Him. That’s not a simple act. It is an act of accepting whatever public scorn is heaped on us for serving Jesus over all other gods. Whatever consequences come, be it good or bad, we take those on. Why?

Because Jesus is not just a nice guy or a great teacher, not a revolutionary or an awesome leader, He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, to whom we owe all allegiance.

In Nerdiness: 

Nerds unite! First, there are three major interpretations Matthew 16:18. The first is that Peter himself is the foundation of the church. The second is that Peter’s confession is the foundation of the church. The third is that Jesus is the foundation of the church.

The first conclusion comes from seeing “Simon” renamed as “Peter” in this passage, and then Jesus’ reference to the “rock.” The word “rock” is, generally, feminine. “Petros,” which becomes “Peter” in English, is a masculine form of this word. So, the idea goes, Jesus is referring to Peter as the rock on which the church will be built. Churches that focus on “Apostolic Succession” tend to support this idea. Roman Catholicism is dependent on it—Peter was in charge (the keys of the kingdom verse is next) —so Peter’s successors are in charge.

The second conclusion takes Peter out and puts his confession as the rock of the church. I can see this possibility. It rests the idea that the true church is found in those who confess Jesus is the Christ.

The final conclusion, that Jesus is referring to Himself, connects well to the idea of Jesus as the Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20) or the Lord as the rock of salvation (Psalm 18:2). It also puts the foundation of the church in God and not even the words of man.

Study wise, I can live with either the second or third.

Then we could spend hours on what it means to hold the “keys of the kingdom” and whether what we bind on earth “will be bound” or “will have already been bound….” That is, does earthly action like church discipline effect eternity, or does it simply reflect eternity?

But we’re out of space for today, so those will come later.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Book: Eschatology

It's the end of the world as we know it...and there will be no more insufferable references to 90s music! Eschatology is that branch of theology which studies the last things. Eschatology is collection of essays looking at this area of theology.

This book has its roots at Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Therefore, it should not be surprising to find dispensationalism as the primary grid of eschatology used here. This differentiates the work here from a book that presents a varied viewpoint, like one of the "Four Views" series does.

That is a strength of this work, if you know that you are getting it. Rather than wading through a surface treatment of divergent views, the reader begins to see the implications of a basic dispensational understanding in areas of theology and Christian life.

A word should also be shared regarding the contributors to this volume of essays. They range from seminary presidents to seminary professors to seminary presidents again. Academically, one would be hard-pressed to survive this lineup as lecturers. Especially if they gave tests! For example, there is David L. Allen, Dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Seminary. Or there is David S. Dockery, President of Trinity International University. Then you get the presidents of Southern Baptist Seminary and Southwestern Baptist, and so on.

On to the content, though, as even great minds can come up with clunkers. The book is divided into four major sections. These address the foundations of eschatology, the Biblical basis of eschatology, the historical development of eschatology, and finally the practical implications of eschatology on ministry.

As any collection of essays will be, this one has a few that are better than others. Some, like Holsteen's essay on The Doctrine of the Future in John Calvin, stand out due to content. Likewise, I liked Turner's section on eschatology in John better than Bock's on the Synoptic Gospels, but that's because of my own preference for John's writing. Blaising's concluding essay on the implications of eschatology on the marketplace was a surprisingly good finish.

In all, I cannot find much fault with this work. Rightly, Kregel Academic continues to support the use of footnotes. The serious student of Christian theology will benefit from this volume. Size/format fits the shelf well, and the hardcover feels durable.

I did receive a copy in exchange for the review.

Sermon Recap for August 14

Good afternoon! Here are the sermons from the past 3 Sunday mornings. There are two from me, and the one from David Mason from the Central Baptist Association. I’m trying to fix a problem with the audio feed on the podcast (here) and then we’ll get that back up and going.

July 31 AM Sermon from David Mason:


August 7 AM Sermon from Doug Hibbard:


August 14 AM Sermon from Doug Hibbard



It’s good to be back from Peru. I shared some about the trip last night at church, and I’ll start spilling out stories from the trip here on the blog soon.


Doug

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book: NIV Cultural Backgrounds Bible

Today’s book is the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Bible. (Yes, I’m in Peru. I wrote this before I left and scheduled it for the blog tour.) Zondervan provided a copy for me to to review.

Before we get too far, let me lay down some realities on this review. I have not read all of the study notes in this Bible. I have focused on one book of the Bible, Ephesians. I am also not going to deal with the pros and cons of the New International Version. There’s enough on that in both pop-level blogging, academia, and the pastoral world.

Enough of that. On to Ephesians!

First, the concept for the Cultural Backgrounds Bible: while most study Bibles look somewhat at the direct cultural background of the text, this one spreads that effort. The goal is to provide readers with not only the Israelite or early Christian direct context, but to look at the cultures which surrounded the events in Scripture. This provides a better understanding of why some stories are explained the way they are. For more information, check out the official page, here.

Second, in setting up the blog tour, I volunteered to take a long look at Ephesians. The notes for this area come from Dr. Craig Keener. I’m familiar with some of his other works, and have found them helpful. I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but there are few people that would be true of, anyway.

The Ephesians section begins, as expected, with a look at authorship of the book of Ephesians. Keener deals briefly with authorship and highlights a few reasons why he accepts Pauline authorship. I found his assertion that Ephesians was intended as a circular letter.

Keener also notes several reasons to take Ephesians as a later letter rather than an early one.

The notes then provide a full-color rendering of Ephesus. This, along with several paragraphs on Ephesus, provides the reader with a better understanding of the city home of the church Paul writes to.

The study notes attached to the text interface with the Old Testament texts Paul alludes to, but also draw out Greco-Roman context. The note on Ephesians 1:8, for example, notes the similarities in how Biblical writers and Greek rhetoricians used repetition for emphasis.

2:2’s note draws a connection into the Dead Sea Scrolls and the section of Judaism involved with producing those scrolls. This type of note is the highlight of this Bible: it draws out not only the well-known background but also some of the lesser-known areas in the background. This is also shown in the discussion of the idea of “peace” further down in the chapter.

As a preacher who chases rabbits (some of the time), I found Keener’s observation about digressions in the Ephesians 3 section noteworthy. If Paul could chase rabbits, then so can I…of course, mine aren’t as tasty.

The notes on 5:18 draw out the cultural reasons Paul addresses drunkenness. He develops what drunkenness looked like in antiquity.

There is an extended explanation of the idea of household codes from Ephesians 5:21-6:9. Keener points out how Paul’s views, while currently thought of as stiff and harsh, would have been among the more moderate of the era. The notes then go on to work through the grammar and challenges found in the household codes. Keener does not attempt to negate the commands, but also does not put direct modern applications to them. Instead, he leaves them explained in context and leaves the reader to bring them forward to today.

In all, I’ve found the study aids in the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Bible helpful. I’m not sure I really need another study Bible on the shelf, but definitely look forward to adding these notes to my digital study platforms.

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 ...