Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Foolishness: 1 Corinthians 1

In Summary:
1 Corinthians opens with the standard greeting of a letter from the Apostle Paul. He tells who he is with (Sosthenes) and who he is writing to. In this case, that is the “church of God that is in Corinth.” He further specifies that this church is made up of those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints. 

He then expresses the blessing/greeting of “grace and peace” from God. From there, Paul reflects on his initial involvement with the Corinthian people and the beginning of the church. After that, though, there are problems to deal with and Paul is not hesitant to address them. He begins by addressing the division within the church. Apparently, the church had split into factions, some of which were drawn to various personalities who had led the church in times past. There is no firm evidence, or even a suggestion, that Paul, Cephas, Apollos, or anyone else had asked for a faction in their name. Further, the “I follow Christ” faction may not have been any less divisive than the others—just as today there are some who would exalt the “red-letters” of Scripture against the rest of God’s Word.

Paul addresses this, first by distancing himself from the faction and second by pointing to the true unification of the church: the Cross of Christ. 1 Corinthians 1 highlights that the community of Jesus, the Christian church, is not based on earthly wisdom or high birth. It is unified around a foolish thing, an unwise moment—the God who chose to die.

In Focus:
1 Corinthians 1:18 draws our attention for this installment. Take a look at the grand contrast surrounding the Cross: depending on where one stands with God, it is either foolishness or the great demonstration of the power of God. Christianity, with its message of surrender and a God who died, was not really an easy to market idea in the Roman world. After all, this was an empire of power and dominance. The gods that most people served were gods of heritage or convenience, whereas what Paul and his fellow Christians preached was that there was one God to worship and serve, and one God who also loved enough to die for all people.

That sounded foolish. Compared to gaining wisdom or living a stoic life, it does not seem like a great idea. And with the deferral of pleasure in exchange for sacrifice and devotion, it was not going to pass muster over many of the live-for-the-moment ideas that were in vogue.

Except that, to Paul and the Christians, it was more than just a life-altering idea. It was a life-saving evidence of the power of God. The Cross is the evidence that God in His power has not abandoned His love, and that He will save us from that the greatest danger we have: His own justice. It does not always make sense.

That does not make it untrue.

In Practice:
Here in the practical section is where I should tell you that we do not have to be wise or anything else in the world’s eyes. There’s some truth to that. But then again, we tend to get carried away and not bother with logic or learning….and then it makes it hard to show the love of God because we have not loved people enough to communicate with them.

First, though, the basic truth: Christianity does not make sense when compared to other belief systems. If you do it right, then you come closest to living and speaking like one who was perfect and did no one any wrong, and was killed for it. That is the direction in which our lives should be oriented: we are aimed toward sacrifice. Not toward achieving for ourselves. Nor does it work as a means to a different end but that—you cannot fake self-sacrifice for your own benefit. People will fall for it. God will not.

Second, though, consider this: Christianity does not have to fit the mold of the current trends of philosophy. In fact, it shouldn’t. There are bases of evidence and internal consistency that should be clear. 

Now, remember this, though: we’re talking about foolishness in the eyes of world philosophy. Not foolishness as in does clearly dumb things and then expects no consequences. For example, the Cross is foolishness to the world but truly the power of God. That does not equal “we don’t need doctors we have God’s power” or “we don’t need education, we have the Bible only.” This is the hinge of our beliefs: the Cross and the Empty Tomb.

Because the Cross is the power of God because Jesus did not stay dead.

In Nerdiness:
I’m going to be a lazy nerd and not deal with the authorship question. It says “Paul.” I’ll take Paul. 

I would advise you to look at Ben Witherington’s A Week in the Life of Corinth historical fiction novel.

The main nerd point: 1 Corinthians 1:2. “Called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….”(ESV, mainly). Paul’s statement here highlights that there is a local church but also the church which expands to include all who call upon Jesus.



And then there’s the local church question: one per town? Perhaps so. New Testament descriptions seem to deal with the church of a city or the church of the whole world, with little regard for national boundaries. Just some food for thought.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sermon Recap for February 19 2017

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

 

Sunday morning (Audio download is here)

 

Note that I don’t really consider what I said Sunday Evening as a sermon—no real text.

Sunday Evening (Audio Download Here)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Just like always

Kevin Costner has made three baseball movies. Field of Dreams is good. Of course, James Earl Jones plays the Wise Old Man in the film. It’s hard for not to be good. I haven’t seen Bull Durham in ages. At least a couple of decades, and I wasn’t paying great attention at the time. His third one has stuck with me, though—better than “If you build it, he will come…” (Spoiler alert: it’s about playing catch with Ghost Dad.)

The third one is a bit less mystical. For the Love of the Game came out in 1999, and one night Ann and I rented it on VHS. We’ll talk about VHS later, Internet generation. Costner plays Billy Chapel, a 40-year-old pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. There’s a great story there, and I just spent 25 minutes skipping through a YouTube upload of it, but I won’t link it because it’s probably a copyright violation. I don’t remember how family-friendly the film is—but it’s not a kid movie. (Want a kid baseball movie? The Rookie, with Dennis Quaid. Watch the deleted scenes on the DVD. Or Blu-ray.)

Costner’s character, Chapel, has a habit for dealing with the crowd noise. Since he’s the visiting pitcher in Yankee Stadium, the viewer sees it several times and the filmmakers worked well to demonstrate the idea. You start with the noise, and the stadium goers are all in-focus. You can see them, hear them, and discern them. Then you hear Costner’s voiceover of the thought “Clear the mechanism.” At that point, the stadium is blurry, the crowd goes silent, and all you can hear is…nothing. Maybe the catcher. But that’s it. It’s his way of focusing, his mental trick. After a 19-year career, he’s used it and it works. You see it enough times to realize it’s probably something for every inning.

But somewhere around the seventh inning, the scene runs differently. I couldn’t find it in the YouTube to remember exactly where it is, but Chapel’s facing a batter, the crowd noise is growing, and you hear his voiceover, “Clear the mechanism…”

And it doesn’t work.

Being human, he does what ever human does: he tries it again. Automatically.

It does not work.

At this point, the viewer fears for Chapel’s impending perfect game. (If the viewer hates baseball movies, the viewer has moved on and didn’t get this far.) Can he control himself?

Chapel then mutters to himself, “Ok, then throw the ball over the plate, just like always.” (Note: quote isn’t precise because I couldn’t find it to transcribe perfectly.)

So, that’s what he does. Even with the noise that is leaking through his filter. Even with the pain in his arm. Even with the age and the worries and all the other stuff (like the flashbacks to his relationship with Kelly Preston) in his head, he reminds himself: just throw the ball. It’s what you do. Throw it.

Now, “spoiler alert” for a twenty-year-old movie that you weren’t renting this weekend anyway: Chapel goes on to throw a perfect game. He sucks it up, throws it over the plate with the noise, and makes it work.

Why tell you this? Why drag you through 500 words of Kevin Costner backstory for a blogpost?

To make this observation: sometimes, there’s not the inspiration that you want to have. Sometimes, there are noises and chaoses and focus issues and they all keep you from locking in to what you need to do. It happens. At least it happens to me.

I don’t always have great ideas to write, teach, and preach. (I may *never* have great ideas, but that’s another post.) And there are times I just don’t feel like it. I made a joke yesterday morning before church about how I got up and thought about going fishing…then I picked up the bass guitar and made a bass joke :)

But those days hit. Some preachers are perfect and never have those days. I’m not one.

Some days, I have to step up to the mound and throw the ball over the plate, just like I always do. And then trust that the results will work themselves out. Not because my effort doesn’t matter. Not because I can be derelict in preparation—keep in mind that our pitcher did his usual workout, preparation, and warm-up routine to prepare.

But because sometimes, the responsibility to do it must override the feelings of the moment. In a baseball game, there has to be a pitcher—and sometimes, a worn-down, imperfect pitcher is what you’ve got.

In life, we have those things that are on us. I have things that are on me—now, throw in the expected pious-sounding caveats about “with God’s help”—and that have to be done. Step up, and do yours. Throw the ball over the plate, just like every other time.

And then, that’s often when we actually see the work of God come through. Moses’ staff doesn’t change until he throws it. Lazarus isn’t raised until they move the stone. God can work without human help, but so often, He chooses not to do when His people are lazy, or when His people are strong enough to take credit for it.

Go out there, give it that one more shove, and do it again—if it is what you are commanded by God to be doing, do it one more time. And see the thing through to the end.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Book: Getting to “Yes, and…”

Well, this one’s a bit different from the usual fare of Bible materials and such. I’m working on broadening my horizons. Bob Kulhan’s book definitely stretched my thought processes. One thing we don’t do well in established churches is improv. Whether you leave it like that or add an “e.”

Here’s what today’s book looks like: (Picture is linked to the author’s webpage for his book.)

This probably isn’t the first think Bob Kulhan had in mind when he wrote Getting to “Yes And”, but here’s my first response: this book demonstrates exactly what we have lost in the general education of America as we set aside the arts for budgetary concerns. Seriously, you are working through an entire book written by actor/comedian about how to apply the same tools from drama/comedy improv to your business and see how things change and improve. If we would have been teaching and encouraging arts all along, the need would be very different.

However, somehow we lost sight of the idea that preparing people for life was about more than just comma splices and times tables. We misplaced the idea of stretching our minds.

This is where Getting to “Yes And” comes into play. Bob Kulhan has primarily been an improv comedy actor, but in recent years has worked to apply those skills in helping train business people to think outside the written plan. This book is an attempt to distill what many seminars and training sessions have taught.

First, of course, a comment or two about the book itself. The writing style is clear and organized. Since one tends to think of improv as jumping around a bit, it was good to see that Kulhan followed logical lines of thought in presenting his views. The nine primary chapters build well on each other. It is unfortunate that the publisher (Stanford Business Books) put the notes as endnotes instead of footnotes—there weren’t many and it would be better to have them accessible.

Overall, though, the writing style is easy enough to read without making one feel dumb while reading it. Somehow, too many books that aim for “accessible” use it as cover for “dumb.” Now, there are some classic business clich├ęs present in the writing. For example, the old saw of “How do eat an elephant?” makes an appearance, as do a few others. The thing about such phrasings, though, is that they make the point.

Second, content. After all, content matters—grammar and writing style only pave the way for good content, they don’t replace it. Kulhan shares various stories of how he has worked with businesses to work improv sessions into corporate training. Especially helpful are the ideas about breaking through when structures get too siloed and the isolation is choking the business.

The opening content lays the groundwork of using improv for self-improvement. That’s a key component and increases the value for individual readers. After all, your boss may hate these ideas—and has a responsibility to make sure they are valuable before the business heavily invests them—so you will need to work out how much help you find first.

In all, this isn’t a light and funny book, though looking at Kulhan’s website shows he can be light and funny. It’s a good introduction to shaking things up in your mind, so that you can get more work done.

Practical points are included, as are tips for dealing with those who object and refuse to try. I like it.

Book provided in exchange for the review. And, yes, I would never have read it otherwise.

Moving forward to another thought process:

How does this relate to church/ministry world? We tend to adopt business practices without thinking through them, but here are some thoughts:

1. “Yes, and…” is the key here. We usually respond to new ideas with “no” or “yes, but…” and these two answers are practically the same. They are ways to shut down an idea. “Yes, and…” embraces a good idea and then suggests taking that energy forward to another problem at hand.

For example, we need to deal with handicapped accessibility at our church. We need to install an elevator, which is expensive. But the issue is this: we want to reach all kinds of people, so we spend money on outreach—yes! and, “all kinds of people” includes folks who cannot navigate stairs, so we see this as outreach work. Not just building code work.

But…what if nobody needs it? Then we ought to redouble our efforts to reach all kinds of people, including doing special work to reach those who will use an elevator…and whoever else we can find.

See, it builds.

2. Silos—this is what most churches are. There’s a nursery silo, a children’s department silo, a youth silo, a music silo, a men’s silo, a women’s silo, and so forth…and the typical response is that everybody needs a silo.

But then the farm stumbles. What happens when the women’s silo needs more space because somehow, the harvest is currently women? Think around it, build around it. What about when there’s a silo that you don’t really see long-term growth in, but it holds some valuable folks? They like this one thing…well, how do we spread that enthusiasm?

It’s a good plan to consider and spread the ideas across the whole farm.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Misplaced Weeks

Well, it’s been one of those weeks around here. First this went wrong, then that went wrong.

And then Angie’s cat went up a tree and wouldn’t come down. I couldn’t make the 30-40 feet necessary to get her down. So, every time we went outside, we heard her. Wailing. Sad, pitiful, hungry. We were trying to figure out what the best solution was. Naturally, that led to some lousy advice—no, you have never seen a cat skeleton in a tree. That’s true. When they start to get low on nourishment, they have seizures, fall out, and die on the ground. Yes, some things are funny when in normal times and not funny when a child is greatly bothered by what is happening.

After all, there’s a time and a place for everything. Face-to-face with a crying child isn’t that place. Anyway, the cat came down. Thanks to a tree service, that is. I greatly appreciated their work. The dumb fuzzball had gotten herself out on a branch she couldn’t get back from. As a result, she needed help.

Which, like any good preacher, I’m now finding as an illustration for all sorts of things.

One of them is time and schedule management. Sometimes I get out on a limb and then it’s hard to come back. I chase something too far to be able to get back to normal. That’s been part of this week.

What do we do?

First, we can get help. I’m not sure where that comes from in some cases. As a Christian believer, of course the answer is “God” but how does God work that out for us? That’s the bigger question. I’m reading up on time management principles and concepts, but one thing remains the same: it only helps if you don’t overrun the plan. Don’t get too far out on that limb.

Second, listen to the encouragers. Flufftail (aka Szechuan the Cat) got spooked while she was in the tree. There were several opportunities she could have taken to get down and she was being called to by people who loved her…but the gap was too much to overcome in her mind.

What do we focus on? The obstacles? Or the people who love us?

There are times that we misplace weeks and things go wrong. That’s unavoidable. What you do with it next is what matters the most.

So, you misplaced one. Get it together and pick up the next one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sermon Recap for February 12

The best-laid plans of mice and men are usually derailed by cheese. It's been a week that needed to be cheddar, or at least more gouda. I've felt creamed, shredded, grated, and cubed. Anyway, without any further ado, here are the sermon recaps from Sunday.


Here is what you'll find: after each sermon title, there's an "audio" link that allows you to play or download that sermon's audio file. Then there should be an embedded Youtube Link to the sermon.

If you'd like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/east-end-baptist-church/id387911457?mt=2 for iTunes users. Other audio feeds go here: http://www.eebcar.com/sermons/feed

The video is linked on the East End Baptist Church web page here: http://www.eebcar.com/sermons-2/ or on my personal Youtube Page here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJBGluSoaJgYn6PbIklwKaw?view_as=public


Thanks!


Morning Sermon: Matthew 22:1-14 (Audio here)





Evening Sermon: Matthew 22:15-16 (audio here)




Morning Outline:

The Generous King

The Invitation Mandate

The Judgment

Those who escape destruction

Those who defy salvation

Why?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Painful Obedience: Joshua 5

In Summary:
Joshua 5 opens with the people of Israel in the Promised Land. That’s a great start. Even better is the news that the kings of the Amorites and Canaanites are terrified by the work of God in the life of Israel. I like the imagery of Joshua 5:1 of melted hearts and breath taken away. 

Then, things get hairy for Joshua and the Israelites. Apparently, in the 40 years they have wandered in the wilderness, no one has observed the ceremonial rule of circumcision. This is a logical oversight: the wilderness era involved many pack-up and move outs, and there may not have been a healthy way to accomplish the circumcision of newborns. Or, perhaps, the generation that headed off to die in the wilderness (Numbers 14) was rebellious and simply refused. The text does not answer that question, because it is less important the reality. Why the men are uncircumcised is irrelevant. That they are uncircumcised must be addressed.

So, there in the shadows of Jericho, Joshua has flint knives made and the men of Israel are circumcised. Any man under forty goes through this painful observance. That would include, basically, the whole army. God highlights that this takes away the reproach of Egypt—the people are again marked as the covenant people of God (Joshua 5:9).

It is now recovery time for the Israelites. After all, that hurt…

In Focus:
This is not the only part of the obedience that hurts in this chapter. While the circumcision experience certainly hit the men, they would recover from it in a few days. Further, since the people of the land were terrified of the God who could hold back the Jordan River, there was little risk during that recovery time.

Instead, look on down in the chapter to Joshua 5:11. The people of Israel, after celebrating the first Passover in the Promised Land, eat some of the grain and other produce of the land. And at that point, the manna stops. No longer does God provide a day’s ration to be picked up. Instead, the people must live off the land. 

Which means work. They must till, plant, and grow what they will eat. True, they will eat captured food for a time—except for the cities that are totally destroyed. 

In Practice:
In our every day lives, there are fewer things we do not think about more than circumcision. That we do not consider this as a religious practice is based in the New Testament, though there are debates going forward about the medical practice. I have no interest in that discussion here.

Instead, let us consider a few factors:
1. As stated, the Israelites were living in sin by not fully obeying the covenant of God. They were not circumcising the boys. The important point was to recover obedience rather than fix blame. This is generally true for us today: recover obedience first. Fix blame only if necessary. This carries a necessary caveat: if the disobedience involves victimization of individuals, then proper consequences must follow. That is a different case.

But let us take as an example a church’s approach to youth ministry. Many churches have slid into a youth-ministry-as-entertainment approach. That’s sinful. It is far less important how or when you got there than it is to get out of there quickly. The work of the church is to proclaim the Gospel. 

Now, generally, any time you pull a ministry that has been fun back toward a focus, people get angry. People leave. Growth stifles for a time. Guess what? Obedience has consequences. 

2. Then, there was the need to personally correct the sinful situation. You have a stake in your own sin. Do what God commands to fix it. It may be difficult, but obedience has consequences.

3. Finally, the Israelites took in the blessing of being in the Land, but that resulted in a change in God’s provision. They could not live on the manna forever, but that did not make it any easier. Obedience, though, has consequences.

Those consequences may be personally painful or somewhat risky. They may result in more work in the long run. But if we do not take on the painful obedience today, then the long-range effects are devastating.

In Nerdiness: 

First, I left off Joshua 5:13-14 on purpose. I think they fit better with Joshua 6 and they tend to draw the most discussion on this chapter.


2. I find the implications of Joshua 5:1 interesting. It appears that the people of the area were more aware of what God could do than the Israelites were at times. However, given traditional religions, it’s possible that the Canaanites still misunderstood the nature of God and assumed a capricious and unpredictable deity rather than who God truly is. But their fear was well-grounded just the same.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Book: Interpreting Revelation

One of the only birthday gifts I regret asking for is from the first year I was on Kregel Interpreting Revelation and Other Apocalyptic LiteratureAcademic’s review list. They offered my choice of a book or a coffee mug. I took the mug. I like the mug. But their backlist is nice. Ever since then, I’ve taken the book. Someone’s always giving away coffee cups. You can’t get free theology books on the street. (Well, you can, but I don’t think you want them.) Recently, I reviewed Kregel Academic’s Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature by Richard A. Taylor. Today, we have a stand-alone (but companion-esque) volume from C. Marvin Pate, Interpreting Revelation and other Apocalyptic Literature. Taylor’s is more Old Testament focused while Pate’s is New Testament focused. Book was provided as a birthday gift from Kregel Academic. They like me.They really like me :)

As with many generations of Christians, it is common for us to struggle with the book of Revelation in the Bible. The first three chapters appear to be easy, then it gets slightly odd for most of the book, and then comes back to “God wins!” So, we chalk it up to odd prophecy, accept what Uncle Bob said about Revelation, and go on with life. Every now and then, we make a best-seller out of the latest possible application of the text and then, when the times change again, that one hits the bargain bin and we move on.

What, then, is the best use of the book of Revelation? The first need is that we treat Revelation just like any other Biblical text: interpret it properly, according to genre, text, context, and history. Then we look at how that applies.

Accomplishing that first goal is the aim of C. Marvin Pate’s Interpreting Revelation from Kregel Academic. (Full disclosure: Dr. Pate teaches at Ouachita Baptist University, which is my alma mater. He didn’t teach when I went there, but he does now.) The stated intent is to provide a guide for pastors, teachers, and Bible students to understanding the distinctive content that is apocalyptic literature. The softcover weighs in at 240 pages and has footnotes rather than endnotes, indicating that at least one thing is very right here. (I hate endnotes.)

How does Pate work though this goal? First, he summarizes what the term “apocalyptic literature” means, including noting the SBL definition from 1979. He also addresses books like Revelation and Daniel which mix apocalypse with other genres. Then, he develops the importance of understanding the historical era in which literature of the “end” is written, including pointing to historical events that find their parallels in the prophetic. Note that many of these parallels are used as illustration more than claiming them as fulfillment: the Roman habit of “triumphs” and “arches” would have been well-known, so the imagery borrows well.

Much like how modern preachers might use television or sports as images for material now.

Pate then works through the connections between some apocalyptic passages and areas in the Gospels, and then draws lines between the Old and New Testaments. Those lines then arc forward into the age to come. This is done well. It is worth noting that the book’s perspective trends more toward a “covenant theology” than toward a “dispensational theology,” but has value for either viewpoint. Pate believes in a literal return of Jesus—beyond that, this work provides tools to understand what Scripture says about all of the concurrent events with that return.

Further, though, the real strength is this: how do we live now according to that which is to come? Can we draw anything from Revelation other than “someday, we’re out of here…”? Yes, we can.

Pate’s final chapters address developing messages from Revelation for the church today. He makes points based in wisdom and practicality.

Even if Dr. Pate wasn’t on the faculty of the OBU School of Christian Studies, I’d recommend this book. It’s a good challenge for next-level Biblical interpretation: how do we take the principles and apply them to this type?

I did get this book free, but I gave up a coffee cup for it. So it’s like I paid for it.

Sermon Recap for February 5

We continued with our time in Matthew Sunday morning. We’ll be with Matthew through this month. Next Sunday will be Matthew 22:1-14.

Morning Sermon: Matthew 18:1-10 (audio)

 

Evening Sermon: Matthew 18 (a brief addendum) and 1 Samuel 17 (audio)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book: Reach

Somehow, the book choices that I have made in shopping and reviewing lead some folks to ask if I’d like to review books that are far outside my expertise. That’s where this book comes in: Reach by Andy Molinsky. His publicity folks reached out and asked if I wanted it. It’s about business development, primarily, but I thought it would stretch me. So, I accepted a free book in exchange for the review. (Which is the long-standing method of book reviews. Don’t kid yourself that bloggers are selling their opinion. The New York Times review page doesn’t buy many books, either. Never have.)

Actual book review follows:


What does it mean to dwell in an untouched comfort zone? It means never accomplishing beyond the easy items right around us. And that’s not a formula for success at anything. Not in business, not in church work, not in relationships, and not in life. Into this discussion, let us drop Andy Molinsky (Ph.D., Harvard) and his book Reach. This is Molinsky’s second major book, after Global Dexterity, which looked at cross-cultural communication and work.

Reach presents Molinksy’s strategy to break out of your comfort zone and handle life’s challenges. It is written from a business perspective, so it’s light on personal life type examples. Further, it’s not a “spiritual” book by any stretch of the imagination, so don’t go looking for that here. (You can apply the work to both fields of life, but you’ll have to do some of the brain work for that yourself.)

The first couple of chapters are almost a waste, though I can understand their inclusion. Typically, it’s a safe assumption that someone reading about reaching out of their comfort zone understands the necessity of doing so and does not need a chapter to be convinced of it.

Still, that’s not a major drawback. And it allows Molinsky to establish his basic vocabulary. From there, he presents a basic formula to overcome the fear of stepping out of comfort and into something new and challenging.

That formula is built around three “C” words: conviction; customization; clarity. This concept works. The “Why” has to be the driving factor of making changes in life—that’s the “Conviction.” Every person is different, that’s “Customization.” Before you go from said to done, you need to know what to do, and that’s “Clarity."

The work shines best after this formula, though, as Molinsky presents ideas for building resilience—for keeping up the work that you have chosen. This is the better part of the book. It is a healthy dose of get up and get your back into it, which is what many of us need.

In all, I found Reach a good read. It challenged my thought processes and I think makes for a useful tool for personal development. It will also make a good read for businesses trying to take a step out of neutral into action. Worth your time, if you're willing to invest the effort in following through!

I did receive a copy in exchange for the review.

Monday Tools

It’s Monday. Which means it’s time to get back to work and be grateful that the boss isn’t a Patriots or a Falcons fan. Today, I thought I’d peel back a couple of tools that I think are working for me these days.

First, in the realm of the printed calendar. Yes, I have seen the future, and it’s printed and bound and the batteries don’t die. That’s a printed calendar. Why? Because there are far too many things that go wrong on the digital one. Do I have enough service? Is my phone responding? Can I get it typed up quickly?

In truth: no. No, I cannot. It takes me too long to get the right app open and then enter information. It’s rude to you as you wait for me and wastes both of our time. But I can flip open a paper calendar and it’s all right there. And if I do not have it on me, I have one other notebook on me that I will reconcile when I get back to my calendar.

So, what calendar? I have waffled among several calendars, but then came to this conclusion: I have to grab a dated calendar. If I have to write in the dates, I won’t use it. That one question: will I use it? canceled several calendar/planners that I liked otherwise. That includes the Basics Notebook (now the NOMATIC notebook) and the Week Dominator. I still live and die by NeuYear.net’s yearly calendars. There is nothing better for seeing the year as a whole at a glance. And I love the task pads that they make and still use those—but the weekly calendar has been set aside. It was also big, more of a desk format.

The Nomatic Notebook has some great features and it’s in the smaller size (6x9 ish) that I like. But the undated nature made it a problem. Again, that’s me.

I’m using Ink and Volt’s Volt Planner. The one thing it lacks is a strap to hold it closed, but overall, it’s got a good layout and the extras are helpful (if used). I like that the times of day are blocks (morning, afternoon) instead of hours, though I could use an additional block for some days. The brainstorming charts are great, and the month calendars are with the appropriate weeks.

There are couple of items on the Nomatic that I would add to the Volt, and if the Nomatic were dated, I’d reconsider, but as it stands I’ll keep with the Volt.

Now, alongside the Volt as my planner (and the big NeuYear Annual Calendar on the wall), I use two other pieces of paper. The first is a standard-size Moleskine Professional Notebook (hardcover). It’s got the right layout for everyday journaling for me, including tracking todos and learnings. The other item is a pocket-sized Moleskine Hardcover notebook. If I’m away from my desk, that little notebook is (should be) within arm’s reach. (within reason) That’s where everything goes that doesn’t get dealt with immediately. See me in the grocery store and want me to put something on my calendar? It goes in there, and then when I reconcile the two, I get it all caught up.

This all requires a personal discipline to make it work. And, when I do it, it works.

The next items is digital: I’m back to using Nozbe as my center point for digital organization. By linking it with Evernote and Google Calendar, it becomes a one-stop glance at what needs done in a day. If there’s an Evernote reminder, it shows up. I put dates in Nozbe and that goes to Gcal, and then I can send invites if need be.

Is it all perfect?

No.

It does take the first Pomodoro (more on that another day) to make sure everything’s in sync. That’s okay. It gives me a look at my day before I get into it. Frequently, that’s actually my last look at work for the night.

Those are the tools that are working for me right now.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Week in Review: February 3

Wait, why review the week on Friday?

Because in the current rhythm of the Hibbard household, the week starts on Saturday. Which, perhaps, bears some explanation. As a family in ministry, our week looks different much of the time. The way churches work, there are always some folks working on items in the background. Frequently, that involves at least one or two of us. And even when it’s just a “normal” Sunday, we’re in gear the same time as work days and going until later than most normal work days. That’s a separate problem for another day—but too often being a “good church member” gets in the way of people being good neighbors, to say nothing of good friends or family members. (Honestly, is the only time you have to spend with your friends that 4 minutes between Sunday School and church? But we sure do ask for that…) Throw in that most church activities hit on Saturdays—as do most family activities, since we’re busy on Sundays—and “weekends” aren’t great as the opening of our week. Or the end of her last one.

Since Ann is able to flex her schedule a bit for work, and I get the opportunity to take a day somewhere in the week, we’ve set Friday aside as our down day. This is, essentially, our “Sabbath-rest” day. Our focus is to rest, recharge, and reconnect on Fridays. Does this mean we do nothing? Nonsense. But it does mean we shifted the chore schedules, we rearranged the school schedules and push back hard against making commitments on Fridays. Then, we launch into Saturday as primarily a working day—sometimes house working, sometimes relationship working, sometimes church working—which includes my final sermon review work on Saturday night.

The big shift in mindset is how we approach Sunday. It used to be that we tried to have family rest and reconnection on Sundays as well as make church services and everything else. Then, every little additional item was an “Interruption.” A frustrating one at that. Now we look at a differently.

One thing this requires is that we pay attention to how we react to other people’s Sundays—for some folks, that is the one day they have for rest and family. They cannot treat it as a work day. They need those hours. I have to strive to not be agitated about that.

So, then the rest of the week runs through Thursday, with Friday again as “reset” day.

So, this week? Not a bad week. Just a chaotic one. The ABSC Evangelism/Church Health conference was Monday and Tuesday. I got wrapped up in some relationship building and didn’t get back Monday night. But it was good. Good reminders in the messages about the faithfulness of God and our response to Him.

The rest of the week went as expected—chaos gives way to crazy which gives way to trying to do the best I can even though I fall way short most of the time—and now, it’s Friday.

Friday means date night—which means homecooked dinner for two, calmness for the night, and then back at it in the morning. Including balancing the checkbook, paying bills, changing the oil in the car and finishing off the French homework.

YAY! That’s a week. It holds together because the grace of God is both the substance and the glue that holds me together.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thursday thoughts

I haven’t put together a coherent blog post for today. Instead, I’ve been doing what I do: try to help people walk better with Jesus. I do it by answering questions and listening. A lot of listening.

I have been reading—one of the books I’m working on is Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next. It is, essentially, a productivity book that deals into why a Christian should be productive and what should motivate you in the process. Perman also works into the “how”s of productivity. I’m not there yet.

I have been wrestling with the “Why?” questions of productivity. I’m hesitant about things like mission statements or “grand visions” for my life. I also know that the great philosopher Yogi Berra allegedly said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else.”

(Yogi also allegedly said that he “didn’t say half the things I’ve said.” For whatever that’s worth.)

Perman points people’s perspective toward having a mission statement that everything else filters through. If an item aligns with your mission, then you do it. If it doesn’t, you don’t. Sounds simple.

Except that I haven’t figured out how to draft a mission statement that covers eating green vegetables. I know I need to, but I can’t bring myself to adjust the Westminster Catechism to have question 1 read: What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to fear God and glorify Him forever, and to eat broccoli.

It just doesn’t work.

Admitting that there are things that have to be done, mission or not, is an important reality. Somebody has to take out the trash. Right now, there’s a crew of minions to do it. At times, it’s me. So, how do I draft a mission statement?

One approach is to make such a broad mission statement that it covers everything in the world. That’s the way many organizations, especially churches, do it. Everything fits into the mission because the mission covers all possibilities.

Except, whether in a group of people or alone, that provides no help for filtering your planning. That’s why, for example, at East End Baptist Church we have a simple mission statement: As East End Baptist Church, we are going to walk with Jesus and take as many people with us as we can. Anything that fits with that is worth considering, anything else goes to the wayside—even good things. (For example, I hate heart disease. I’ve seen too many family members and friends die of heart issues. We as a church don’t fight heart disease, but we also encourage church members who want to do things like heart walks, “go red,” etc… We recognize that there are good things that aren’t church that people need to do.)

So, how does that work into a personal mission statement? Does mine simply echo the church’s? Does it need to be more in-depth?

That’s what I’m wrestling with. I’m for the simple approach, but the church’s doesn’t translate. The general idea there tracks with a community approach of serving Christ, which I think is Biblical. We…with us… works better than I…with me… does. I know, there’s still “though none go with me, still I will follow.”

Right now, my general inclination goes in this direction, borrowed heavily from D. Elton Trueblood: “I will endeavor, with all that I am and all that I have, to live and teach the way of Jesus.”

I think that’s about as good of a start as I’ll get.

What about you? What would you take as your personal mission in life?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Book: Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

Because I am a glutton for punishment, when Kregel Academic offers books, I grab hold of them. Especially when they are on matters far outside my experience base. They provide a book, I learn a good bit, and then you get to read my reactions.

First things first on today’s book: Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature by Richard A. Taylor is the next entry in the Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis series from Kregel Academic. Series editor is David M. Howard, Jr.. Taylor is Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and the director of their PhD Program. His work demonstrates a breadth of knowledge in the Old Testament and the surrounding world of the times. And, given the doctrinal position of Dallas Theological Seminary, one can see his opening position on Biblical matters. He will approach the text with the view that the Bible portions referred to are nothing less than the Word of God Himself.

Now, on to the book. Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature begins with an explanation of what apocalyptic literature is. Keep in mind that this book, along with the rest of its series, are second-level works on interpreting the Bible. Before you come here, you would do well to pick up a basic introductory work on Biblical interpretation, like How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth or Grasping God’s Word. (Or Kregel’s Initiation to Biblical Interpretation. They don’t require me to plug another book.) Those introductory works will help you see the basics of seeing literary genre in the Biblical text.

From there, Taylor goes on to look at the major themes in apocalyptic literature from the Old Testament era. He does NOT limit his scope to only Biblical texts. Instead, he takes in works from the Apocrypha and other non-canonical works that date to the era. This book is focused on learning the concepts and helping you, the reader, see the overall apocalyptic views at the time. Special attention is paid to what I would consider the “inspired” texts, but Taylor does not neglect that other literature aids in understanding those texts.

It is this broadening of the pool that is the book’s greatest strength. For too long, many of us have approached the Bible as if it sprang, completely isolated, from the fingers of the writers. The writers, though, wrote while people read other writings as well. Those writings influenced the text and knowing a bit more illuminates the text better for us. One good example is seeing that apocalyptic writings were typically anonymous—so the author does not WANT to be known. Yet we tend to invest substantial time in trying to figure that out! Those authors never intended you to know, and their original audience would not have done so.

Taylor also gives a good look at the purpose of such writings. The needs to be faithful, to face difficulties, and so forth. This includes some guides to preaching the text. A good portion of that guide is universal preaching guidance: pay attention to structure, remember you’re not preaching to Israelites in Babylon, and so forth. It’s still good advice to be reminded of.

In all, Taylor gives a good look at the right way to deal with the apparently future prophecies that are apocalypses in the Old Testament era. His guidance helps pull the interpretation back toward sane and reasonable, without trying to count the horns on the President’s desk (or head) and instead focusing on what God Himself is saying in the text.

A good entry in a helpful series.

 

Book provided by Kregel Academic.

Worship Service Recaps for May 17

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