Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sermon Recap for January 29

 
Morning: Blind Tradition: Matthew 15 (audio)


Blind Tradition: Matthew 15

Matthew 15:1–14

New Testament Ib: Matthew 14–28 They Do Not Wash Their Hands
Therefore this tradition of the elders is practically useless, for it does not benefit a person’s health.


Sometimes, preachers and teachers get things wrong....

Traditions, Laws, and Hearts


Traditions:

  Good for some things

  Bad for others

They make good  servants  but horrible  masters

Laws:

  1. Requirements of  God's People

  2. Requirements of  ALL People

  3. A mirror that shows us our need for  GRACE!

Hearts:

  1. Laws  push in , but hearts are  what we are

  2. Cleaning the outside  does nothing

  3. Replacing the  INSIDE matters

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 11:29 AM January 30, 2017.

Evening: John 3:16; Romans 6:23 (audio)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Risen and Ruling: Matthew 28

In Summary:

Getting to Matthew 28 marks the closing words of the Gospel of Matthew. Whatever else Matthew may have written, we do not have any of it. There may be other writings from the first century that should be attributed to him, but we do not find them in the canon of Scripture. He finishes with two major components: the Resurrection and the Great Commission.

As is often the case in the telling of history, crucial events can be told with a minimum of words. Much more is said of Mary’s interactions at the tomb of Jesus than is said of His resurrection. Matthew’s presentation of the Resurrection is not structured to persuade the reader of its occurrence. He writes to show the effect of its reality.

An important part of the Resurrection narrative are the witnesses. First, the news is given to the women who came to the tomb. In an era when women’s testimony was not worth much (based on what I’ve heard repeated in many New Testament classes), that Jesus entrusted this knowledge to women is worth noting. At the least, it should remind us that knowing the truth is the first qualification for someone to speak the truth. Mary Magdalene knew the truth and so had the ability to tell others. She should not have been expected to wait for someone else with a better pedigree.

Second, note that the religious leaders and guards, who should have been trustworthy, are not. They know the truth and hide the truth. The guards might be excusable, but the religious leadership has eyewitness testimony to the reality. And choose to ignore it. Trustworthiness only matters if you are willing to listen. The religious leaders did not want the truth, they wanted a story.

Then there is the Great Commission. Jesus gives the disciples a closing command to carry out, and it is one that has no ending point.

In Focus:

Taking the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20, into focus, let us consider three major points in focus here.

First, the opening line tells us that Jesus spoke of His authority. The King is issuing a command here, and the King’s words are binding. Further, He addresses His authority. It is His, and no one else’s.

Second, the next verse gives us the scope of His commission. The command requires effort, “Go,” and has “all nations” as its end point. A great deal of emphasis is laid on the idea of “nations” as “ethnic groups” these days, but it is worth noting that the disciples would have assumed that. They were all subject to the Roman Empire, but none of them considered themselves “Romans.” It would have followed that an earthly political unit was not the focus of these commands.

Third, the last verse gives the time frame for His work. He promises His presence “unto the end of the age.” That covers all the times that we might be concerned with, does it not? Further, since the time frame is not short, Jesus commands that all He taught be passed on. Not just a few snippets. It will take the fullness of His Words and His presence to carry His followers through to the end of the age.

This is the commission given by the Risen and Ruling King.

In Practice:

First, perhaps, we should get a right definition of “commission.” It’s not a percentage of a sale. It’s the charge for the King to accomplish something. A commission is different from a command in this way: a command is about specific behavior while a commission is about a goal. A command says not to run a red light. A commission says to travel to a location. Further, a command might say to go to the store and buy hamburgers. A commission says to prepare a feast.

There is latitude in a commission, provided it is accomplished within the confines of known commands and reflects the character of the commissioner. In this case, it must reflect the character of the Risen King. Being a commission does not make it optional, but instead, leaves it to us to determine the best way to accomplish it in light of the commands and character of the King. For example, telegraphs helped carry out the commission at one point but now are not much help. Sailing ships aided at one point where now, often, aircraft supply. Being commissioned to accomplish the task enables us to apply wisdom and knowledge. Of course, that requires that we acquire wisdom and knowledge.

Now, on to the rest: authority for the Great Commission reminds us that our orders come from our King. If our earthly rulers are impeding our work on the Great Commission, then we must cast off that authority. No President, Premier, or Potentate may stop us—they may force an adaptation of methodology. But that is not the same. We obey the Risen and Ruling King.

Second, the scope of the Great Commission reminds us that Jesus draws no geographic or ethnographic borders on His kingdom. We seem to draw them around our churches and our work to spread the Gospel, but the Risen and Ruling King rules over all. Let the borders we draw around our faith reflect His borders.

Finally, the time frame of the Great Commission reminds us that we will work until the King returns triumphantly. While the times may change around us, our commission does not change with the times. It may be “too late” for some cultures or “too early” for others, but the time frame is not set by sociologists or missiologists or pastors. It is set by the Risen and Ruling King who has promised His support to the end of the age. Because we ought to need it. There comes no point where we live without Him, and certainly no point where we can be effective without Him.

In Nerdiness: 

Well, the body went long but we still have to get nerdy together.

First, this is Matthew’s only canonical book. I have not seen any major suggestions of Matthew as the author of Hebrews, which surprises me. After all, Matthew uses a lot of Old Testament references. Hebrews uses a lot of Old Testament references. I know the writing style is different, but still, there seems a possibility. Somebody working on a New Testament Ph.D. should look into that.

Second, Matthew explains one of the earliest arguments against the Resurrection when he points out the guards being bribed into lying. It makes me suspect that at least one of those guards came to faith in Christ and told Matthew the truth.

Third, a fun challenge is harmonizing the accounts of what happened on Resurrection Day. Have fun charting that!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The King: Matthew 27

In Summary:

In truth, Matthew 27 deserves about a half-dozen thoughts to deal with. This chapter gives us Judas and his recognition of failure. From Matthew 27:1-4, some have inferred that Judas had hoped his betrayal of Jesus would turn out differently. That is an entirely different discussion than we’ll have here—the text does not supply any greater motive than financial. That turns out to not be enough, for Judas recognizes that he has a hand in condemning an innocent man for profit.

Yes, there’s a principle there about profiting off the death of the innocent. What exactly expanded your 401(k)?

Then we have the Roman trials of Jesus. The Jewish trials were held in the nighttime and are recorded in Matthew 26. It is worth noting that the Jewish leadership did not wake up the Romans with their demands but waited until an opportune moment to involve Pilate. Also worth noticing here is that Matthew does not record the Pilate shipping Jesus over to Herod and then Herod shipping Him back. That detail is only in Luke 23.

The chapter wraps with some of the details of the crucifixion of Jesus. The original readers of Matthew would have known the mechanics of this execution method—in the same way that those of us in recent American life need no added explanation of what “Give him the chair!” would mean for an execution. (This even though I think there are no remaining states using the electric chair as an execution method.)

While Jesus is on the Cross, we see that He is mocked and taunted. This was normal because the slow public execution was meant to also humiliate. He was mocked for what He had said. He was mocked for what He was not doing. Then darkness fell, the veil of the Temple is torn, and a centurion realizes that something very important just happened.

The chapter closes with the Son of God laid in a gifted tomb, soldiers keeping Him as locked up as they possibly could. (Can you imagine that orders package? “Lucius, go, make sure this Jesus guy doesn’t come back to life and get out of the tomb.” “Surely, you can’t be serious! If He comes back to life, you think we can get Him to stay in the tomb?” “The name is Surius, not Shirley. And I’m dead serious.”)

In Focus:

For a focal verse, take a look at Matthew 2:2. Really. The Magi arrive in Jerusalem some 30 years prior to Matthew 27 and ask about the King of the Jews. Then take a look at Matthew 27:11. Jesus only answers one question during His trial before Pilate.

One.

It was this: “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Look at Matthew 27:29. And Matthew 27:37. And Matthew 27:42.

Matthew’s recounting of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God comes to its fullness here. Jesus is the King. And this is how the world treated the King. One betrayed Him. One denied Him. Dozens fled Him, hundreds shouted, “Crucify!”

If Jesus were only a normal king, the story would end here. As with so many other stories, the next page would tell of who became the king next. But that’s not what happens because Jesus is no ordinary king. His Kingdom is not of this earth or restricted to it, but He is above all things. Including death.

In Practice:

Unfortunately, we must remind ourselves that, had we been in the crowd, we probably would have yelled “CRUCIFY!” with them. Or we might have betrayed the Lord Jesus instead of Judas. Perhaps we simply would have been like Pilate and washed our hands at getting involved.

Instead, let us take this as our commitment: the King will not have suffered for us in vain. We will follow the example of Simon of Cyrene and carry the cross. Not literally—that would be unnecessary. Instead, let us carry the message of the cross to the world. Let us be like Joseph of Arimathea and come out of the darkness and follow fully in public. Let us weep over the cost of our sin.

And let us tell the world that the One who was King then is still King today!

In Nerdiness: 

1. Simon of Cyrene is from Libya. It is most likely that he is African—though he could have been a Jewish settler. Either way, he’s either Middle Eastern or African. Remember that.

2. The splitting of the rocks in v. 51 tells us that the creation did not care for the Creator’s suffering.

3. V. 52-53 is a strange story. I don’t know quite what else to say about it. Strange.

4. V. 54 could be translated as “Truly, this was a son of the gods.” It all depends on whether or not the centurion is amazed but unchanged or becomes a follower of Christ.

5. I do not understand putting a seal on the grave. Why not a local animal instead of some aquatic critter? Did they have a beach ball for it to play with? Was it a harp seal?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sermon Recap for January 22

Sunday morning’s passage was Matthew 13:1-9. Sunday night was business meeting. My kids weren’t there, but we had a motion to adjourn just the same :)

Good Soil! Matthew 13:1-9 (audio)


Good soil!

What is Jesus talking about?

The basic understanding of this parable:

The four types of  soil

Matthew 13:18-25

How do we make sure the seed falls on good soil?

What can we do?

We cannot make seeds grow.

We ABSOLUTELY DO NOT HYBRIDIZE THE SEED WITH OTHER NONSENSE TO MAKE IT GROW BETTER!

We move  rocks

The falsehoods that keep people from taking root in Christ

We clear  thorns

The cares of this world

The blatant sinfulness of those who call themselves Christians

We prepare  soil

Encouragement, nutrients

We spread  seed

God grants the  increase   in His time

And then we repeat, every season.

Next week’s passage:

Matthew 15:1-14

Monday, January 23, 2017

Treasure Hunters

Ever watched one of those “treasure hunter” shows on television? Where you watch as some nut chases after hidden clues and makes some dubious logical leaps in order to find a treasure that may not exist?

The one thing that makes the star not a “nut” is when he actually finds a treasure. Then, it pays off. Then it makes it all worthwhile. And everyone sits back and apologizes for doubting him and wants him to buy the next round.

It all hinges on the treasure. If it’s real and truly valuable, then it’s worth anything. If not, well, then you’re just another nut with a theory, a fake bird, and a series of murders for Sam Spade to solve. (Ok, so that’s fiction. But still…)

Matthew 13:44 speaks to treasure hunting. Actually, it speaks of treasure-finding. Jesus tells of a man who found a treasure in a field, kept it hidden, then acquired the field and held on tight. We praise the man, because the story is told in just a few sentences.

But what if we had known him? How crazy would we have thought that man?

“You’re buying the old Gunderson place? Are you nuts? That field won’t perform well. There’s no water!"

“You want to sell everything for that? We’re already on the cusp of financial ruin! No way!"

“Do you really think it’s worth it to do this? Take the money from selling half your stuff and go to Rio!"

“You want to spend the time to build and gather and find the lasting treasure? We can do it quicker. Besides, digging into that field will make it look odd to everyone else, and it will be different than the fields around it. Can’t do that. Just make it look the same and be the same."

What do we do with this?

First, realize that following Jesus is going to look like the middle of the treasure hunt to some people. We’re going to look like morons at times. It’s the way it is. We know the long-term treasure. Shortcuts will not be effective for what we need.

Second, realize that, just like with treasure hunts, there are people who would pirate the work. They want the benefits without the efforts. That’s a non-starter. But they will make life hard for you.

Finally, remember what we’re after. It’s not about the field or the short-term profit. We must not stop until we have reached the goal. Until we have attained the measure of the fullness of what God has called us to.

Don’t give up halfway in. This is no time to sell the shovels and give up, shrinking back.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

January 19 2017

A few things I’ve noticed around the Internet this week:

First, if the poster had his facts right, the end of President Obama’s term tomorrow will mark only the second time in American history that we’ve had 3 successive two-term presidents. Clinton, Bush, Obama all served their full 8 years. The closest we’ve come to violence in the power transition has been here at the transition from President Obama to (will-be) President Trump.

But even that pales in comparison to the violence some nations see in any transition. And it sure beats civil wars and military coups every time something goes wrong.

Second, by this time tomorrow someone else will be responsible for executing the laws passed by the Congress. For the past few decades, we’ve kind of stunk at making sure the President did that and the Congress did their job. The back half of President Bush’s terms, much of President Obama’s terms, we’ve mainly let Congress skate and then fussed because the President either did too much of what we didn’t want or not enough of what we did. Without considering whether it was the President’s job to do it in the first place—much of was done outside what should have been the scope of the Executive Branch—but our Legislative Branch has been allowed to be dysfunctional for too long.

Third, it’s time for the great shift in American thought again. From 2002-2009, it was patriotic for the media and movie stars to question the government (in their eyes), while “mainstream America” (whatever the definition of that is) felt it wrong to do so. Then, from 2009-2017, it’s been reversed. Now it’s time to go back.

Or, maybe every last one of us who are supposed to be guaranteed, by the US Government under the law and through strength in the right ways, the free exercise of the inalienable right endowed by our Creator to stand up, use our brains, and engage in the process. That process starts by knowing your neighbor and realizing that every last one of us are in the same boat. True, I have a wildly different belief about God and right and wrong than many other people do. Guess what? I’ve worked with people whose belief systems were radically different. We argued but we worked.

It is entirely possible to live, work, and even be friends with people you have rank disagreements with. Start by having the assumption that the person next door needs food, water, oxygen, and to be treated like a human being. See where that gets you for starters. And then, we start using our brains again.

Start seeing through the rhetoric that perpetuates the cycle: this extreme view is held and propagated as the only alternative to that extreme view, and no middle ground is left. After all, the only reason someone holds the other view is they “hate” your view (and, by extension, you personally). And to defend you from the “haters,” your only option is to join the extreme on your side.

This gets exploited to the benefit of a few who profit, in money and power. Crack a history book and read it plainly. Hitler persuaded millions of that the Jews hated them, and got those millions to hate back. Stalin, Lenin, Robespierre. What empowered apartheid? Fear and hate.

Learn your neighbors. Love your neighbors. Some of them are like me: right-wing nuts who own guns, read the Bible, and actually believe it. Guess what? I don’t hate you as much as you think I do. And you probably don’t hate me as much as Todd Starnes wants me to think you do.

But as long as you and I never speak…well, we’ll never know, will we?

As long as we’re only people who wave at our neighbors (with a full hand or just a part of one) as we drive off to daily chaos, we’ll have voices from the TV or the Internet or some other distant source telling us who our neighbors are and helping us judge them.

The result?

The madness and anger you see going into tomorrow. And the relief without regard for the consequences of it. Guess what? Come noon, January 20, 2017, the Presidency of the United States switches to Donald J. Trump. Can the Republic survive him?

I guarantee you this: the Republic cannot survive the fractures in our streets between each of us. We have a system that should limit his power—should limit any government official’s power—but the power of that system is the people who are neighbors to one another.

People who are informed, thinking, and connected with the community around them.

Want to protest the installation of hate and tyranny tomorrow? Want to celebrate the end of eight years of hate and tyranny tomorrow?

Meet your neighbors. Share a meal with them. Make time for your family.

The strength of this nation is not its government. No nation lasts whose strength is in the politics.

The strength of this nation was, at one time, in its people. People like Alexander Hamilton or Elizabeth Adams, Abraham Lincoln or Harriet Beecher Stowe or Frederick Douglass or Sojourner Truth or Audie Murphy or Susan B. Anthony or Daisy Bates or….(the list starts to look like I’m just googling after that.)

You get the idea.

We the People. Let’s quit sitting on our hands and reach out to one another. We’ve almost waited too long. Let’s not wait any longer.

 

Or, if you’d rather, let’s be junior high kids and play “turn about’s fair play” for the next four years, and four years after that, and take pictures of the nation around us because it’ll help the archaeologists know what the ruins used to look like. Remember to print them out and seal them in plastic for posterity’s sake.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rock Forever!: Joshua 4

In Summary:

Joshua 4 picks up the story right where Joshua 3 left off. The people are in the middle of the Jordan River, the priests are holding the Ark, and the waters have parted. There’s not much else to tell. The text recaps that the people crossed, including that the warriors for Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over with the rest of the nation, honoring their commitment.

There is also the statement that through this, God exalted Joshua just as He had done with Moses. He does this by echoing the miracle at the Red Sea from Exodus 15 with the parting of the Jordan River. Joshua is the legitimate successor of Moses as the leader of the people.

In Focus:

Rather than one verse or phrase from Joshua 4, focus your attention on event in this chapter of the gathering of rocks from within the Jordan River. As the bulk of the people are crossing, two things go on. First, twelve men are tasked (one from each tribe) with taking a stone from the river bed where the priests are standing with the Ark. These men take one stone each to the new campsite at Gilgal.

Meanwhile, 4:9 tells us that Joshua set up twelve stones where the priests are standing with the Ark. Depending on which commentary you read, some will suggest that these are the same twelve stones. Perhaps Joshua made a stack and then the twelve men picked up one from each stack. I side with the idea that twelve new stones were set up at the place of the priests. Also, Joshua is the man in charge. He may not have done it himself, and he still gets credit for doing it. We see this from time-to-time.

Worth noting on all twenty-four stones is this: there is no way we are talking about lightweight, small rocks. These are big, visible markers. Joshua is building a monument, after all. He’s building two—one of which will apparently be visible in the Jordan at times.

Why? God said to do it. While that’s a valid reason to do most anything, there’s often a reason God said to do things. In this case, the purpose is a memorial, a reminder of the river crossing. It’s to point out the place where God did the impossible on behalf of His people. How does that work? The people of Israel had been in the desert for 40 years, and they continued to live an agrarian life in a semi-arid climate. They would know the difference in river rocks and shore rocks. The evidence would be plain to their eyes.

In Practice:

First and foremost, we need to walk in obedience so that we have something to remember the Lord’s work by. Before we can make a memorial of how God used us as we walked in obedience, we have to walk in obedience. That is a place we often miss: God has already given us instructions, and we wait for something else before we follow.

Second, pay attention to what God does in your life and the lives around you. Where do see the miraculous in everyday life? Make a note of it. Here’s the place where journals and calendars come in handy—and so do those pesky phones. Take a picture, make a note. And then put some of this in a format you can remember it by and tell others.

As believers in Christ, we have two parts of the work of God to tell. The first is the work of God in salvation as Jesus came, died, and rose from the grave. We must never leave the Gospel unspoken. But the second part also matters: how is God working in your life and the lives of those around you? How has He shown His faithfulness so far?

Because by this, we learn even more how trustworthy God is for the days ahead.

In Nerdiness:

In fairness, it’s equally likely that we don’t have two stone piles, but one. It’s possible that the grammar should be translated that way.

Second, the stones are there “to this day” refers to the time of writing. Not this day, but that day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sermon Recap for January 15

Good morning! Here are the sermons from Sunday, January 15. (Click the titles for audio)

Morning Sermon: Matthew 7:7-14 Ask, Seek, Knock, Treat, and Enter

 

Evening Sermon: Joel

Monday, January 16, 2017

Worked all my life

Well, it’s not really a secret that I had a birthday this past weekend. I turned 40. Now, on the one hand, you have people who say that ‘age is just a number.’ So, turning 40 is not really a big deal. And besides, ’40 is the new 30,’ if the magazines are to be believed.

Except the number means something. At 40, I’m past the midpoint of the average life expectancy of an American man (76). Also, every part I’ve got has been in use for 40 years. 40 years of wear and tear, including the abuses of youthful stupidity on joints and such, coupled with the metabolism slowdown that puts more weight on the knees than they should have.

Age is more than just a number, it’s also a marker of how long I’ve been around. And while some people were trying to poke fun at the age, it dawned on me (in true Captain Obvious fashion) that my age is an accomplishment.

I have worked all my life, after all, to reach this age. It’s taken me 40 years to get this old. That’s an accomplishment. What else have I ever worked this long for?

That, though, leads to the next question. What else have I ever worked very long on? And what else is worthy of the pursuit of a lifetime? Because age is just a number. It does not mean you’ve accomplished anything but living. And lots of people live to 40.

What is my life worth? I know what my life insurance is worth. But that’s not the worth of my life.

What have I done with it? What would be said of me?

Would my neighbors see me as someone who lived out the purpose of Jesus? Would my family?

Have I raised my children, so far, to both miss me and be able to succeed and go forward in life without me?

Or have I, in the selfishness of my own heart, built a world around me that cannot function if I am not there?

If I have worked all my life to get this age, what else have I accomplished? I got to the top of the hill, but what else?

I have carried unnecessary weight to the top. Both physically and emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. I have every intention of coming down the hill lighter.

To that end, I got up an exercised again this morning. That’s more days this year than not. It’s a start. To the others, I am striving to pare down everything. Less stuff. More understanding. Fewer contacts and acquaintences. More relationships and community.

Less religious foofaraw. More depth of love for Christ the King and through Him, for my neighbors.

This is where I am. I’m 40. When I was a teenager I realized I had a few great desires in life: to know Jesus and make Him known; to teach; to write; and to love a good woman. Fortunately, God is allowing me to make progress on all of these. I am working to do the first, I am studying to be equipped to the second, I am constantly attempting the third, and these last 18 years have been the first steps of the fourth.

(What about the kids? How many teenage boys you think really plot having kids? They’d be a fifth added a bit later…)

May I spend the next 40 continuing to improve in all of these, and may it be of service to God and my fellowman.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Peace, Beaver

I’m reading C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Well, to be honest, I’m re-reading it at night before bed. I like good stories. It’s a good story. As with all good stories, different parts stand out every time I read it.

This time, as I worked through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, something new stood out to me. (If you’ve never read the book, go get it and read it. Come back later.) (No, not the movie. Read the book. Yes, Liam Neeson made for a great Aslan. Better than I expected. Read the book.)

If you’ve read the book, you know what’s going on. The White Witch holds the land of Narnia under an evil spell. It’s always winter…but never Christmas. That’s a terrible thing. She rules the land in an oppressive manner, though Lewis is not too specific in her oppressions. The main thing is, speaking against the Witch is punishable by being turned into stone—and fear of her has many Narnians helping her out.

Meanwhile, four children get into Narnia through a wardrobe and meet up with a beaver family. Well, actually, the Beaver family, made up of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. The Beavers take the children to Aslan, the rightful king. While there, the Witch shows up and makes demands based on her claim to be the queen. Not because she’s got a relationship at all with the king, but just because.

During the interaction between Aslan and the Witch, there are several times that Mr. Beaver starts fussing back at her. He tries to correct her lies and rebuke her evil. Here’s the problem: he’s not a particularly big fellow. He’s a beaver. If you want a tree down, he’s the guy. If you want fresh fish from the frozen lake, he’s the guy. Fighting with the Witch? He’s not up to that.

Aslan knows it. Despite the fact that every thing Mr. Beaver says is right, each time Aslan settles him down with a gentle rebuke: “Peace, Beaver…” and then Aslan goes on to address the need of the moment. He does so with grace and wisdom and justice.

Now, if you have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, you understand that it’s a story of Jesus. As such, I think there are lessons here for any of us Christians.

Naturally, we all want to be the heroes of the story—Peter, Lucy, Susan, Edmond. Or, at the very least, someone majestic like a Centaur or other warrior. But I’ve realized who I am very often.

I’m Mr. Beaver.

I can talk a big game, and I’m good with chopping down trees, but real effectiveness? I’m more likely to be standing over at the side, muttering about how things happened rather than doing anything useful. And thinking that my advice is really necessary for the King of Kings on how to run His kingdom.

And into that, I hear the Lord say, “Peace, Beaver.” Well, perhaps I hear more clearly “Cease striving and know that I am God;” (Psalm 46:10) “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

In other words, my place is at His side and doing whatever task he puts before me. Maybe, like Mr. Beaver, it’s to guide a few to Him. It may be that my place is to do other things. But ultimately, the results of following His plan fall on Him. Not me.

So, this week as I try to argue with whomever I can, and try to stir up a reminder that I’m right, I know I’m right, and I just want everyone else to be aware of that, I’m reminded of two little words that might settle me down:

“Peace, Beaver.”

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Long Night: Matthew 26

In Summary:

Matthew 26 is the longest chapter in the book of Matthew. As such, fitting it into a single blog post will require overlooking a few parts. Even the summary will be a bit more summary than we normally get to. Matthew 26 opens with the news of a clear plot to kill Jesus by the chief priests and elders of Israel. Worth noting is this: their plan is to wait until after the festival, in this case, Passover.

Prior to the Passover, Jesus is in Bethany and is anointed for burial beforehand. The other Gospel accounts tell us that this is Mary, the sister of Martha. There is a rebuke of the expense, but Jesus highlights that her devotion is laudable. His response is that the poor will always be around—but He, incarnate, will not. That should not be taken as instruction that we should ignore the poor to build buildings.

After the anointing, Jesus and the Apostles prepare and celebrate the Passover, instituting the Lord’s Supper. From there, they go to the Garden for prayer. At this point, Judas brings the arresting forces into the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is arrested through his betrayal.

Matthew then recounts the trials of Jesus. Most of which were not quite legal under the codes of the time and all of which were unfair. Any trial that starts off with a plan to kill the defendant cannot possibly be fair. In the midst of this, Peter shows his true colors. He is asked about his association with Jesus and denies it with all his being. Peter is made of the same stuff we all are: apart from the power of God, he’ll save his skin every time.

In Focus:

Let us put the Passover and the first Lord’s Supper into focus. The common reference to this event is the Last Supper, and as such is depicted in much of art and history. Jesus and His disciples, which at the least includes the Twelve Apostles and may include more, sit down to remember the deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. They take the time to go through the same remembrance ceremonies that the Israelites have done for fifteen hundred years.

During the supper, Jesus points out that one of them will betray Him. He does not tell them at first which one it is, and their response is telling. While Peter had, earlier, declared he would die for Jesus, he does not make such a declaration here. All of the disciples wonder if they could be the culprit.

The Last Supper, the first Lord’s Supper, is attended by a mixture of sinners. The only one who is clean from sin is the Lord Himself. Everyone else is a frail sinner, holding on by a thread to the hope they won’t fail first.

In Practice:

What do we do with this? First, recognize this: you will never be worthy to come into the presence of God, worthy to take the remembrance of the death of Christ, on your own. Without the grace of Jesus, we don’t get to go. None of the Apostles were worthy.

Second, remember that our job is to bring others to the presence of God. The Lord’s Supper is a picture of sitting at the table in the presence of Jesus. We would do well to bring others to the table rather than push them away.

Now, a caution: 1 Corinthians 11 warns believers to be cautious about our sins when we come to the Table of the Lord. That takes several thoughts, not least of which is that those who live in blatant sin should stay away. So also should those who reject the community of believers—it’s not a personal feast. It’s a remembrance of the cost of sin and a celebration of grace. Treat in such a way.

In Nerdiness:
1. Peter gets close enough to be questioned and recognized. But he’s not arrested. The Jewish leadership is after Jesus, not the followers. At least for now.

2. The need of betrayal: the authorities needed a person to clearly identify Jesus. Why? Darkness? And maybe a few other reasons, but we’re not sure.

3. We do see Peter’s infamous sword strike here. Don’t use a sword to prevent what God has decreed.

4. Twelve legions of angels would still be a picnic compared to the wrath of God.

5. Three denials by Peter would be enough to consider his testimony final--but by the grace of God, it's not.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book: Preaching Old Testament Narratives

Preaching Old Testament NarrativesWhat happens when I decide that the bulk of a year’s preaching will be coming from the New Testament? I get a book called Preaching Old Testament Narratives for review. And I like it. So I’m already plotting 2018 sermons.

Benjamin H. Walton runs a service called “PreachingWorks.” That he didn’t try to be trendy and use an “x” for the “ks” raises my opinion of him in the first place. But, the reason you’re reading this is to find out about his book, Preaching Old Testament Narratives. Let us, then, get down to business.

The first thing I would note about this book is that it depends on the reader’s admission that the genre of a Biblical text is a key aspect for understanding it. That is, one cannot treat “Old Testament Narrative” in the same manner as one treats “New Testament Prophecy.” If you have no idea what those categories of literary type are, you probably need to start with something like Duvall and Hays’ Grasping God’s Word before you come to this text. If you do know what those types are and just don’t care, then you’ll find no value here. (Also, I think you should go back to Grasping God’s Word or something similar and rethink your position.)

Now, for those who are willing to admit that genre matters in Biblical interpretation, Walton’s book has several things to commend it. First, he addresses why Old Testament narrative should be approached differently than direct commands or poetry.

Second, he explains some of the pitfalls of poor approaches to preaching from Old Testament narrative. This closes with a note of encouragement as Walton acknowledges that many who struggle with the hows of preaching still love the why—and still desire to handle the Word of God with excellence.

The hinge of this work is the idea of a “complete unit of thought.” Walton’s view is that preaching OT narrative requires making the right choice of a passage—not too much and not too little. This concept is illustrated with a look at 2 Samuel 11-12.

Next, Walton moves on to methods of delivery. It is a book on preaching, which is hermeneutics shared with a group. This section is the strength of the book as the reader is guided in moving from the theology of the unit of thought into a take home truth. That is the necessity at hand—take home truths for the hearers is the point.

Walton also makes clear how to connect the Cross and salvation into the Old Testament message without getting too strained in the connection.

This is a handy reference for a preacher wanting to hone up the skills before diving into the narrative portions of the Old Testament. Not quite a must-have, but definitely a will-use.

Book received from Kregel Academic/Ministry for review.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sermon Recap for January 8

Well, Elvis got a mention but that was it…

Gifts and Kings: Matthew 2:1-12 (audio here)

Who are the Magi?

Persian Philosopher/Scholar/Astrologers
Where did they come?

  House, because the King had left the building

What are their Gifts?

  1.    Gold: royalty and wealth; purity and deity
    a.    18,811.20 a pound (Monex, avg)
  2.    Frankincense: Priesthood
    a.    11.50 a pound (Amazon.com)
  3.    Myrrh: senses and sacrifice
    a.    15.99 a pound (Amazon.com)
Who is the True King?
What do we do about it?

 

Hosea Introduction (audio here)

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 in the Rearview Mirror

We’re a week into 2017. I thought I’d take a look back at what went well. And what didn’t.

First, health:

Last year, I started off losing weight. Not to worry, I found it all by the end of the year. What went wrong? I didn’t make a real change in lifestyle—exercise never became a habit. Eating right sized portions didn’t become a habit. Backing away from the cookies, well, it wasn’t something I made a true part of my life.

What will I do differently? Ann and I have a definite plan, and it’s a plan that takes into account the strange things that crop up from time to time. And, I’m realizing that I can’t negotiate with the snack drive. It’s not “I won’t eat this (twinkie, etc…), so instead, I’ll eat (some of this and some of that).” If it’s not a true need to eat, then don’t eat. And definitely stop the stress and boredom eating. Food doesn’t meet psychological/emotional needs.

Anything go right? I managed my asthma well, even with a trip out of the country. I think I pick up a small Peruvian illness but I got over it.

Second, learning:

I’m back in school. I’m striving to meet the language requirements to enter a Ph.D. program. I’m still wrestling with whether or not Ph.D., D.Min., or something else like MBA/MPA is what I need to do. For now, I’ll chase the Ph.D. Can’t hurt to be “Dr. Hibbard” in the academic world.

Beyond that, I did not read nearly as much as I should have. I let too many weeks go by without knocking out a real book. I did pack away some fiction, but I had a stack of nonfiction that I should have read (and reviewed.) This year, I have a schedule for it.

Of course, I also have a goal of clearing my “Want-to read” shelf on the library website.

While we’re here: get a library card. Go to the library. Use what the library has. If you’re in Central Arkansas, CALS is awesome. Pick your nearest branch, put books you want on hold, and you can read from across the system. It’s great. You’re paying for it in taxes—use it. And then find ways to help out, too.

Third, family:

For the first time in several years, we took a vacation. It was good. We’re going back to the same place this year. I think we also made some progress strengthening our relationships after the move chaos kind of strained everything.

Fourth, writing:

Did I put out a book? No. Did I blog well? No. Did I get back to writing at SBCVoices.com or for the Arkansas Baptist News? No.

That’s got to change. I think better when I write.

Fifth, work:

I know, I’m a pastor. Therefore, two assumptions get made. First, it’s not that hard. And second, it’s not really “work,” anyway.

Actually, like any job, it has its moments. Even moments that I miss getting yelled at over boxes at UPS. I also tend to get irritable when things don’t go as smoothly as I picture. Except that, at times, I think I’ve explained things clearly and I haven’t at all. So, I’m working on that. Oddly enough, most of the pastoral work that’s “work” isn’t the things like teaching, preaching, counseling, funerals, and so forth…it’s the other issues (like trying to explain why you can’t have coffee in the sanctuary, when I really love the idea of having a nice fresh mug of coffee in the sanctuary my own self, but the spills are too much trouble, so it’s a no-no) that are work.

Sixth, friends:

I’ve got some. And I’m trying to do better about reconnecting with them on an ongoing basis.

Seventh, preaching:

I put this in a different category than “work” because it’s a skillset all its own. And because, honestly, if I were to go back to Big Brown tomorrow, I’d still look for a place to preach. (Besides, Big Brown doesn’t pay enough to start.)

I think I made progress in integrating using a pre-printed outline for listeners, as well as integrating using a media projector outline. It’s not a strong point yet—I’m afraid to depend on the technology to make a point, because I’m just suspicious enough of the tech. Probably has to do with being borderline between GenX and Millennial. The Millennial pull is to use the technology. The GenX side remembers waiting on software saved on cassette tapes and the Pentium Floating Point Unit issue.

Still, it’s getting better. I’m also going to pick One Year to Better Preaching back up for a reread. (If you are a preacher and are more than 2 years past your last “how-to” class, grab a copy. There’s probably something there you can use. Unless you’ve been it at it longer than 20 years(how long I’ve been at it), then I won’t presume to tell you to do so. But you might find value.)

Eighth, finances:

Ha! Next question. Seriously, we’re still trying to dig out of the hole from the last house we bought. And we’ve bought another one. Plus there’s the move, and there’s a few other things at hand. We’re getting there, but we get there better together.

Ninth, marriage and family:

Eighteen years. She’s put up with me for eighteen years. I still don’t know why. I’d have driven me up to Canada and dumped me in Nunavut. I think we’re doing better about communicating and growing together spiritually.

Family-wise, we’ve made the decision to grow our family. Ideally, we’re pursuing adoption. Barring that, we have a list of friends whose kids we like and might consider swiping. Of course, they’ll notice and want their kids back. But Eric’s not on the Internet much, so he won’t know.

Tenth, spiritually:

(I saved the most important two for last.) Last year was stagnant. God loves me. I try to love God. But last year was more about habits than relationship. This year, I’m changing up a few habits and am going to try and chronicle a bit of that here.

What does that look like? I want to get back to finding joy in Christ through all things, and to showing that joy. Christianity is a religious relationship and a relational religion—both horizontally and vertically. I want to get back on track with all of the above.

That’s my year in the rearview mirror.

But rearview mirrors are only for short drives, when you need to back up and get on track.

So, that’s enough retrospection for the evening.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Talents and Virgins: Matthew 25

In Summary:

Matthew 25 continues the teachings of Jesus about His return. His focus is on the unknown nature of the timetable. First, He uses parable about the arrival of a bridegroom. Revelation 21 and Ephesians 5 both highlight that Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church is His bride, and this parable suggests that the Bridegroom will come after a delay.

The next parable is the Parable of the Talents, showing a man on a journey who entrusted his servants with a portion of his wealth. They were to take care of his property while he was gone. Some did. At least one did not. The master returned and rebuked the one who did nothing.

After these parables, Jesus comes straight out and talks about what will happen when He returns. This is the judgment where the ‘sheep and goats’ are separated (Matthew 25:32). The deciding factor is not appearance or opinion, but action.

In Focus:

Take a look at Matthew 25:21 and 23. Notice the statement of reward has two aspects. The first is that the faithful servant is permitted “to enter into the joy of your master.” One should note that the joy belongs, still, to the master. In this case, the master should be seen as the Master of All, the Lord Jesus Christ. Joy is His to command, and His to share. Throughout this chapter, the idea repeats: at a wedding, the joy is the groom’s. And the end warning is the same: some will join in His joy. That joy will be everlasting, just as God is everlasting.

The second reward is this: more work. The one who has been faithful with a few things, the Master will entrust with many things. Now, an important side note: a “talent,” per the NASB footnote, was worth about 15 years’ wages for the average worker. So, for the first servant, his “few things” amounted to about 75 years’ worth of income.

That’s a Biblical concept of “few.” Keep that part in mind. The second side of this is that the faithful ones are rewarded with more work to do. The difference being that this is joyful work at the side of the Master Himself, rather than alone.

In Practice:

Practically, first of all, there is this: again, we see a warning not to slack off with obedience as we wait on the return of Jesus. That alone is worthwhile. Do not be foolish in thinking that He is not coming. Or in thinking that you can plan your life around a date you have determined.

Second, there is this: whatever opportunities God gives you, be faithful with them. Been trusted with a house? Use it faithfully for Christ. Been given a job? Use it faithfully for Christ. And no matter how “big” your stuff here is, remember that 75 years’ wages was a little thing for the parable. How much more is anything else we have than that?

In Nerdiness:

A running debate can be had in the final section of this chapter. When Jesus commands care for the poor, needy, etc., does He do so for all those in need or specifically for those who are believers in Him? Some take the “these brothers of Mine” to refer the command to the church for the church. Others suggest the universal brotherhood of humanity.

I would suggest that the need to provide “within the family” does not exclude reaching outward as well. The two groups are not exclusive, especially given that the family of faith grows through our proclamation of Christ as Lord.

The second question from this passage…can someone be saved and not know it, for their good works reveals it to Christ and not them, and can someone think they are saved by their faith but their lack of works revokes it?

This is where understanding all of Scripture matters. Works do not save—the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus saves. Works, though, reveal faith. That is what we see in James. Some will be surprised by God’s rewards in eternity, not realizing that He counts doing for others as doing for Him.

Others will realize that having opposed God’s people, He has taken personally as well. And that should be terrifying.

Book: True Faith and Allegiance

Today’s book is that most challenging type of book: it’s a political memoir. I’ve read a few of these, and am always troubled by them. I have yet to read one where the author admits that most of what they did was bad, wrong, ineffectual, or pointless. Maybe I haven’t read enough, but there’s always an aspect of self-defense in the political memoir. At the very least, they are a “my side of the story” book.

With that in mind, I was skeptical of True Faith and Allegiance by Alberto R. Gonzales, former Attorney General of the United States. Gonzales was the Attorney General for a little over two years during President Bush’s second term. During that time, the United States found ourselves deeper and deeper in the mud of fighting terrorists according to their rules. It was a time of soul-searching and head-scratching. How do we deal with this?

Meanwhile, the political atmosphere of the nation became more and more toxic. Into that, Alberto Gonzales comes as the chief legal mind for the Executive Branch of the United States government. It was not a job that any one could have done.

True Faith and Allegiance deals with Gonzales’ background. He tells his story of how he came to be the Attorney General, and how he was inside the decision process of the Bush White House. He even spells out why he left—and the reasons are not all that were claimed as it happened.

Knowing that this is his side of the story and that there are other views—including lingering questions about the line between “torture” and “enhanced interrogation techniques,” among others—take this for what it’s worth. It is the story of how a kid from a poor Hispanic family grew up to be the top lawyer in America. About the hard work necessary. And about how a man can be put in impossible situations, where the best bad choice is still awful.

It’s worth reading to get another first person view of the inner workings of the first phase of the War on Terror. It’s worth reading to see how Gonzales got there in the first place.

Just remember, it’s still a political memoir. It’s how he’d like to be remembered more than anything else.

Book received from Booklook in exchange for the review.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Heaped Obstacles: Joshua 3

In Summary:

For starters, remember where the people of Israel are in the story in Joshua 3. They have come up to the edge of the Promised Land, but have not gone in yet. Joshua sent spies to check out the situation in Jericho (see Joshua 2). The spies have returned, brought Joshua an encouraging report, and now the Israelites must go into the land.

If you have a Bible handy, take a look at the book of Maps in the back. If your Bible doesn’t have a book of Maps, then you need to get one that does! Or, perhaps, a good Bible atlas or handbook. (I like The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook, available here. Or you can go here for an online map: http://bibleatlas.org/isv/tribes.htm) You will see something important. The people sit on the east side of the Jordan River. Jericho and the other areas that need to be conquered sit on the west side of the Jordan.

These days, we would expect Joshua to call in the bridging engineers and make his own path. 3500 years ago (roughly,) things were not so easy. A river, even a smaller one like the Jordan River, made for a pretty strong barrier. An army would be hard-pressed to make the crossing in perfect conditions, to say nothing of how easily another army could drive them back into the river. The crossing army would be struggling into and out of the water and mud, all the while taking a rain of arrows, stones, and spears. 

It’s a recipe for disaster. 

In Focus:

The Lord God, however, views obstacles differently than we do. For Him, neither the armies of Jericho nor Jordan River were a problem. We already saw that the fear of God has the army of Jericho dealt with (Joshua 2:11). The question before the Israelites comes back to the river. There would have been some of the Israelites who saw God part the Red Sea during the Exodus, but for most of the people, that story was more history than reality. History, after all, is the stuff that we’re told happened but we’re never quite sure of it. (Legend, meanwhile, is the stuff we’re told might have happened and we’d like it to be true. Myth is what we wish had happened…but that’s all another post.)

God has a plan in place, and it would be very easy to jump ahead to “the waters parted and the people crossed.” God used more words, though, to describe what happened. We would be wise to pay attention to some of those words. 

Joshua 3:1, first, has a simple point that is valuable. The people of Israel come to the brink of the river and lodge there. As in, they stop to rest. Rest is not just for the lazy, it is a critical need for people. Get your rest. 

Next, we see that Joshua gives orders to the people to “consecrate themselves” (3:5). We cannot assume that God will provide for us if we are not dedicated to Him. Following God requires a full-out commitment of the heart.

From there, we see the people of Israel commanded to follow the Ark into the Jordan, and then to pass by and go up into the Promised Land. The waters are piled up, like a heap, far from where they will interfere with the Israelites. Their greatest obstacle is cleared, easily, by the power of God.

In Practice:

Certainly, we could take the time to talk about God clearing out the metaphorical rivers in our lives. Yet how God intervenes in our lives is up to Him, and certainly is not something to be commanded by us. If it were, I can assure you that the past few days would have gone very, very differently for a dear friend. 

Instead, let us look at our practices in preparation for the work of God. First, of course, is the idea of getting some rest mentioned above. This one is not merely a physical constraint. It’s a commandment. Rest. 

Second, let us consider our consecration. Are we set apart like we should be? Do we have the habit of dedicating every action, every thought, to the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, then we have a need to consecrate ourselves. 

Third, walk in obedience by following God-honoring examples. Notice how the Israelites crossed the Jordan. First, the priests went ahead of everyone else, carrying the Ark and showing the way. God even instructed the people to keep a good distance so that they could see clearly the pathway. Then, though, the people had to pass by the priests and carry on to the other side.

Examples are good and necessary, but there are points in our life where we must go further than our examples have gone. All only in clear obedience to the Word of God, but never stop where the priests are. Stop where God has directed you to go.

In Nerdiness: 

Nerd point 1: “Follow at 2000 cubits” in v. 4 translates to about 3000 feet, or almost half a mile. 

Nerd point 2: The Red Sea divides in half, with waters piled on both sides (Exodus 14:22), while the Jordan piles up in one place. I don’t know that there is a lot of significance there, but it’s a detail recorded.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Sermon Recap for January 1 2017

Can you believe it’s already 2017? Seems like just yesterday we were all expecting the world to end with the Y2K bug. Or something else like that.

We just had one service today. We’ll be back up to full speed this week!

For quick reference, here is a link to the church’s Bible reading plan for this year:

Morning Sermon: Ecclesiastes 12:11-14

Audio Link Here

Video Link Here


Ending and Beginning

Ecclesiastes 12:9-14

Ending One Year


Beginning Another


I. The Text:


  Ecclesiastes as the pursuit of wisdom


  Ecclesiastes as the  frustrated  pursuit of wisdom


II. The Wise One Recognizes the  Wisdom of Others


    a.    Prior Generations


    b.    Devotional Books


      My Utmost for His Highest, For the Love of God (vols 1 &2), New Morning Mercies (trying this one this year), Robert J. Morgan's Hymn books or On this Day/From this Verse, Morning/Evening with Spurgeon (Biblegateway.com)


    c.    Learning Books


      Mere Christianity, Cost of Discipleship, The Rest of God, God in My Everything


  Audio/Visual Resources as well


  (Podcasts)


  These are the well-driven nails that hold life together.


  Matthew 7:24–27 NASB95
 
    “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
    “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
    “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
    “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

 

  How do you build the house?  WITH NAILS!


III. Most critical? The Word of God


IV. Fear God


  1.    Judgment


  2.    Commandments


  3.    Salvation


  4.    Serve God


  5.    Serve Others

Sermon and Service Recap for November 8

Looks like I forgot to post this! Thank you!