Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Genesis 19 #eebc2018

There are certain parts of the Scripture that have made their way into the public consciousness even among those who do not care for the Word of God. The Good Samaritan, David and Goliath, even Samson and Delilah show up in commercials, movies, politics, and more...but I don't know that any of those match Sodom and Gomorrah. After all, it has only been the last few decades that "sodomy" laws have been stricken from the books in this country.

That's a pretty long recollection, and a pretty infamous one. Why would our memory of Sodom and Gomorrah be so long and so angry? A few reasons. First of all, you probably noticed that Genesis 18 ended with Abraham speaking with God about sparing these cities from destruction.

After all, a gracious God wouldn't destroy the righteous with the wicked (Genesis 18:25), right? Yet after going so far as to say that He would not destroy the cities if 10 righteous men could be found there...Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed. And it's not that God didn't look hard enough.

The story opens like some tales we find in ancient mythology, where the gods come down in disguise to test humanity. Usually, the stories survive where only a handful pass the test.(See Bacchus and Philemon (not Bible Philemon) as an example, also note The Iliad and The Odyssey for some discussion). Given the antiquity of the events of Sodom and Gomorrah, however, this could be the event behind the evolved legendary tales.

Either way, God's messengers come to Sodom and are offered hospitality only by Lot. Here he is a foreigner, but the only one who fulfills the expectations of hospitality. And, by extension, the only one who stands between Sodom and Gomorrah...and judgment.

And as a practical matter: 1) Christians, if you are the one righteous family in town, perhaps your behavior in a righteous manner is part of how God shows grace to your town. You could be the one that God uses. 2) It would be pretty terrible to be a resident of a place that is so sure of its own righteousness that only the foreigners and outsiders get life right.

The angels come, Lot provides them with hospitality, and then things go very wrong. The men of the city, pretty much all of them, come and demand the angels be given over for sexual purposes. There's a lot left unsaid here, though a question I still have is this: Do they do this to every new person in town? If so, what about Lot?

Note that the angels are not clearly angels to the people, so there is no weird lust for the supernatural beings. Instead, it is a desire for power through sexual dominance. We see how far Lot has fallen, that he offers the crowd the freedom to abuse his daughters in place of the men. And, no, "hospitality" is no excuse for this: it would be one thing for Lot to have armed himself and his sons (if had any) and they all died fighting to protect the angels.

But sacrificing his daughters to the crowd's lust? This is not a righteous, excusable action under any circumstances.

After seeing the lust of the crowd and their fervor for unrighteousness--no matter your view on human sexuality, even if it departs from the Biblical ethic, I doubt anyone finds forced sexual activity righteous--then the angels pull Lot and his family out. We see how weak Lot's influence is when his own sons-in-law (marriage processes were different, they were not yet married to his daughters but still defined as this relationship) refuse his summons to escape. His wife looks back, longingly, for the life they had in the wicked places...and is lost.

Ultimately, the two biggest trouble-making nations for Israel, Moab and Ammon, have their origin here. Lot's daughters turn their father's earlier offer on its head, and use him for their needs. The drunken incest brings about the Moabites and Ammonites, two nations that fight Israel for many centuries. And, it may be noted, worship terrible idols.

The long and short of it is this: Lot may have been related to Abraham, but he never grabbed hold of Abraham's relationship with God. There is no long-term "once removed" relationship with God: every one must follow God themselves.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Genesis 17-18

Note to the reader: Well, I'm way late. I've got excuses but they won't benefit you. As such, I've got apologies. I'm going ahead and writing/catching up so that it's here for future reference.

Growing up, one of the TV shows we watched fairly regularly was Dragnet. If you know the show, you're familiar with the line: "The names have been changed to protect the innocent." After all, you'd hate to be blamed for something you didn't do--so a shield of anonymity can be helpful.

In ancient cultures, though, name changes weren't typically to hide yourself. They were used to mark significant milestones in your life or to show a new allegiance. Which, of course, to the new king, was a significant milestone in your life.

And so we come to the name change for Abram. The Lord Almighty determines that it is time to mark a new beginning for Abram and so renames him Abraham. (An interesting note in one of the newer Greek New Testaments makes the opening syllable more aspirate, like "Ha-braham," which would sound more Middle Eastern.)

The meaning change, based on Study Bible notes, is basically a shift from "Exalted Father" to "Father of Many (or a Multitude)." The "Abr..." part is the "father" commonality. Taken this way, it's primarily a reminder from God that Abraham's heritage is more than just Isaac. He'll only live to see his grandsons reach the teenage boy phase, which means he may be tempted to take them out on his own. Or at least give up on feeding them.

What difference does this make? Well, God alone has the right to make the change and this is part of the narrative where God pushes Abram to make an even bigger step. In this chapter, God commands the covenant sign of circumcision. We won't hit the details of that here, but realize that this becomes a long-lasting part of the identity of the people of Abraham. And as you read the New Testament, you see it's significant in the life of the early church. (Check Galatians 6 for some thoughts on the matter.)

God shows His sovereignty in bringing Abraham and Sarah a child--and note that God also changes Sarai's name to Sarah, showing that God is her sovereign, directly, without intermediary--and reminds them both through the change of names. Then, a sign of the covenant was established, one that would be memorable and permanent.

What of us? Do we remember God's covenant? Do we understand the permanence of the One True God's promises and covenants?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Sermon Recap for January 28

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://eebcar.libsyn.com/rss

The video is linked on my personal Youtube Page here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJBGluSoaJgYn6PbIklwKaw?view_as=public

Sermons are stockpiled here: http://www.doughibbard.com/search/label/Sermons

Thanks!

Sunday Morning January 28 (audio download)

Audio Player


Video:

John 6:59-7:53 #eebc2018

It's Monday morning, which is when we tend to think life is challenging. Yesterday was hopefully a great day gathered with the Body of Christ, and now is a day to put the rubber on the road, energized by the encouragement from the day.

As we start on that, what do we see in today's Scripture passage? The first portion is a challenging moment. Jesus has taught the truth, but the people are not willing to stick around and live it out.

The turn to John 7 gives us a peek into the extended dynamics of Jesus' family life. We see that His brothers did not believe Him at the time, though we know that at least two did later. (Read James and Jude...)

The CSB gives us an odd translation, especially if you're used to the more traditional 'Feast of Tabernacles' or 'Feast of Booths,' rendering the phrase as 'Festival of Shelters.' It harkens back to the time of the Exodus and the establishment of the nation of Israel (see Leviticus 23 for more information).

Going forward, the debate apparently continues in Jerusalem about whether or not Jesus is the Messiah. You should notice John 7:41-43 and see that the crowd is divided because they lack the fullness of the facts--some argue, rightly from Scripture, that the Messiah does not come from Galilee but from Bethlehem. They are just acting on incomplete information: Jesus is from Bethlehem. It's just not a well-known fact.

Then we see the chapter wrap up with Nicodemus moving toward public affirmation of Jesus. What do we do with all of this?

Read it and think through a couple of questions:

1. Is there anything that you could find in the Word of God that would drive you away? Not in man's interpretation, but in the Word of God?

2. A follow-up: have you added anything to God's Word that drives people away? We tend to do that--it builds up over time and then, suddenly, people don't want to hear from Christians because they associate all kinds of rules and lifestyles that *aren't* Christian.

3. How ready to extend grace are we? The church in its infancy was led partially by the brothers of Jesus--especially James--and yet here we seem them not believing. Are we willing to allow people to grow, mature, and then be involved?

Friday, January 26, 2018

John 6:1-58 #eebc2018

John alternates back to sharing the signs of Jesus as the Messiah in this chapter, where John 5 was primarily focused on a discourse. This time, we see signs 4 and 5.

These are actually two of the most famous miracles of Jesus. The first one is present in all four Gospels. Outside of the last week of Jesus, the Passion Week, it's a rarity to find something in all 4 Gospels. The birth of Jesus isn't in all four. Several events in John (Nicodemus, Cana, the woman at the well) are only in John...and so forth.

There are some useful details here, such as the extended interaction with the disciples about the food situation. It's also from John 6:15 that we see Jesus aware that the crowd wants to make Him king by force...and so He withdraws.

Then He walks on water, making the fifth sign. Peter's dip into the waters is not mentioned at all, and then the boat gets where it was going.

What do we do with either of these?

Put them in context with the teaching passages. Jesus finishes out the section pointing out that the Israelites had eaten manna, bread from God, in the wilderness back in Exodus. Now, He has fed them with bread. I think left unstated is that Jesus has shown that parting the Red Sea isn't necessary again, because Jesus can walk on the water and Peter (showing those who follow in faith) could, too.

Except the people got hung up on the first part. They did not grasp the idea of Jesus Himself being "the bread" rather than just providing them food. It was a metaphor that they could not wrap their heads around, and so they just shut down on Him.

Do we ever do that? We hear something being taught and then stop listening? Maybe it was too hard to understand, or just too different? Or worse, it was easy to understand and hard to do, so we didn't do it.

Then we wonder why we don't have the rest of the information, the rest of what we wanted to know. And it's because of this: we never got the first part.

It's like baking a cake and skipping the "preheat the oven" stage. Get the first thing right...and remember that when it's time to add eggs, it means out of the shell, too. You have to do what God has said to understand what He said to do next.


More on John 6 is here

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Genesis 15 and 16 #eebc2018

Genesis 15 and 16 are today's readings. There's two major events, one for each chapter.

First, Genesis 15 provides us with the formal initiation of a covenant between Abram and God. Abram expresses his concern that his household will die out with him. After all, Lot has gone his own way and Abram has no children of his own. The custom of the time suggests that his chief servant would inherit, though I saw one source that suggests this would have been a stewardship until another person of greater social standing came along.

That is, if everything had passed to Eliezer, the household would have ceased fairly soon. Either the servants and slaves would have been free to depart or another "great" person would have taken over for him. Either way, it looks to Abram like God's promise is pretty well done for.

God, though, has a different purpose. Before we go any farther, though, take note of those small caps where the word "Lord" is (or "God" in the combination "Lord God"). You're dealing here with the divine name of God, not some generic deity of no certainty. Remember that: God makes His covenant in His own name.

The covenant ceremony, a symbolic action demonstrating the lifelong commitment, takes place in a dream for Abram. As you reach the end of Genesis 15, you see the promise of God that Abram's descendants will possess everything from the edge of Egypt to the Euphrates River. It takes some time--nearly 100 years--but this does come to pass.

The next chapter is a bit more tragic. Sarai suggests to Abram that he father a child through her slave, Hagar. This may have been a custom at the time, in may have been an idea picked up in their wanderings. (It does seem to have inspired the dystopian writings of The Handmaid's Tale, a work typically seen as showing a future if Christians run the world, though it's based in this story which foreshadows Islam.)

Either way, Hagar is treated badly here. She is the focus of this story--she conceives, is thrown out from the family, but then God reveals Himself to her. She is one of the few women in the Patriarchal Age (really until the time of the Judges) that speaks with God.

The unfortunate downside is that Abram, by fathering a son who would not be the one of the covenant, ends up bringing into being a line that eventually becomes antagonistic to his other descendants. Family ties run deep in many places, and Israel, Arabia, Jordan, and the rest of the modern Middle East is one of those places. Many of the Arab peoples trace their lineage to Ishmael (and some to Esau), while the Israelis trace theirs to Isaac, who comes later. It's a family feud that has run for millennia.

(for more on Sarai/Sarah and Hagar, check out Vindicating the Vixens, chapters 7 and 8)

For more on Genesis 15 go here (also here) and Genesis 16, see here (and here)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Genesis 14 #eebc2018

Genesis 14 gives us two major events to consider.

The first is Abram's rescue of Lot. You should remember that in the last chapter, Lot and Abram had gone their separate ways. Lot had gone toward the cities and the wealth of the region. Abram had gone the other direction. Now, that wealth comes back to be a problem. The local kings rebel against their overlords and, as was typical, the overlords came down to straighten out the situation.

Lot is captured in battle. There's no textual indication that Lot had taken part in the battle. He may have avoided it entirely, which would explain his survival. It is likely that, in the process of Lot being captured, he may have lost some of the men in his household in battle. The testimony of Genesis 14:16 would support that, like a good A-Team plan, nobody was lost once Abram got involved. But that doesn't say anything about before he shows up.

There's a couple of thoughts to deal with from this, the main one being that wealth is great until someone tries to take it. Then there is a real risk of being collateral damage. The other thought is about the importance of being ready to stand and fight when the time comes. Abram may have typically been peaceful, but the time came to fight, and he fought.

Then we get the joy of Melchizedek. He is mentioned again in Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5 and Hebrews 7.

The point I'd like to draw from this passage right now, though, is Abram's differing responses to Melchizedek and the king of Sodom. First of all, note the downplay of the king of Sodom’s name. It may not even be the same one from 14:2 to 14:21. Ancient warfare wasn’t kind to losing kings. But the identity of the priest of God Most High is clear.

This is the same thing you get in Exodus: no name for the king of Egypt, but the midwives are named.

Carrying on, notice that Abram gives to Melchizedek and refuses anything, even a shoelace, from the king of Sodom. I wonder if I have such a commitment to only being enriched by God-honoring behavior that I would turn down the wealth offered to Abram here. I think we as Christians need to think long and hard about the lengths we go to for the purpose of stuff.

What, then, do we fight for? We fight for family, we fight for truth, but we do not fight as mercenaries on behalf of the world. That may be relevant for how we as Christians and churches get involved in the political realm.


Some additional posts: Genesis 14, tithing, Melchizedek, Genesis 14 sermons

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Genesis 12-13 #eebc2018

I’ll have to be brief here, because you either need a book or two about Abraham and God’s covenant with him, or you need a very brief synopsis. So, since there is no time, I will sum up:

1. We have no reason, Scripturally, to believe there was anything about Abram that caused God to call him. In fact, if Deuteronomy 26:5 (and surrounding) is any indication, the Israelites were to remember well that there was not much about their ancestry to boast in.

There are scribal and Hebrew traditions that suggest great things about Abraham, including a story that claims his father was an idol-maker by trade and Abram came to believe in monotheism. So, one night, Abram smashed his father’s shop full of idols and left just one standing, putting the hammer beside it. The next day, Terah asked who had done the damage and Abram pointed at the remaining idol and blamed it. Terah said it was impossible, it’s just a statue. Abram said…Why worship it?

It’s a great story. It’s not in Scripture and so, as people of the Word of God, we can accept it or reject it. Given the general lateness of it—written many centuries after Moses—I tend to think it’s a bit like some of the Parson Weems’ tales of George Washington, intended to spur amazement at our ancestors.

Instead, the call of Abram is the call of God’s grace.

2. There’s much to be seen here about how God immediately brings about the promises of Genesis 12:1-3. Pharaoh is a threat, and God responds. Lot is a threat, and God moves him on…and so forth. God also will continue to work in fulfilling that promise, though I think the greatest fulfillment of Genesis 12:3 is through Jesus. There is no greater blessing for all the peoples of the earth than salvation!

And, yes, “peoples” is the right word. The idea here is that God’s grace is not just for a few, not just for those who can trace their birth back to Abram. But instead, it is glad tidings of great joy which is for all the peoples—unto us is born this day, the Savior, Christ the Lord! (What, you think Luke didn’t know Genesis?)

3. You see in the rest of the narrative issues of trust. Abram is afraid of Pharaoh and lies, risking his wife in place of his life. In 13, he and Lot quarrel. Over time, we see Abram forced to choose to trust God above all others: there is no nation for him, no natural heir for him, no home.

Except the home God will bring him.


For further reading: Genesis 12 (here) and Genesis 13 (here) and I think the SermonCloud links still work here

Monday, January 22, 2018

John 5:33-47 #eebc2018

Monday morning! Time for a new week and a fresh outlook. So, what are we looking at today? John 5:33-47. You’ve got a bit smaller of a passage to read, so take time to chew on it well.

Jesus is continuing His discourse (fancy word for “speech that teaches”) that began in John 5:17. He talks about the importance of John and the value of the spoken testimonies given about Him, but that none of the religious leaders seem willing to accept those testimonies.

A section that bears particular attention is John 5:39-40. The second-person plural which opens this passage could also be translated as an imperative. That is, Jesus could be commanding the leadership to search the Scriptures. He points out that the Pharisees, the Scribes, et. al., believe that the Scriptures (the Old Testament) hold the key to eternal life.

So the goal for them should be to read those Scriptures and see how they point to Jesus!

He is either observing that they have been searching the Scriptures or that they need to. Either one fits the grammar. Both point out that the questions about Jesus would be more readily addressed if people would have read what they claimed to believe.

Funny thought, huh?

That’s not something any of us ever do, is it? Claim to know where the answers are but never look there?

Jesus is the answer—we’ve sung it for years—but do we actually go to Him?

And to wrap up, let us consider this from John Chrysostom (344-407):

He tells them not to simply “read the Scriptures” but “search the Scriptures.” … These sayings were not on the surface or out in the open but were hidden very deep like some treasure. Anyone who searches for hidden things, unless they are careful and diligent, will never find the object of their search. This is why he says …, “For in them you think you have eternal life,” meaning that they did not reap much fruit from the Scriptures, thinking, as they did, that they should be saved by the mere reading of them, without faith.… And so, it was with good reason that he said “you think,” because they did not actually listen to what the Scripture had to say but merely prided themselves on the bare reading. HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 41.1.

Joel C. Elowsky, ed., John 1–10, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 205.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sermon Recap for January 21

Well, first of all, thank you to the East End Water Department for working hard through this afternoon, tonight, and however long it takes to get the water working. It’s not your fault—not sure how anyone could be at fault for a big pipe that deep breaking—so thanks for working on it!

We didn’t have evening service because the water in East End was out. After discussing it with the deacon chairman and hearing the recommendation of the fire department and water department, we felt it was safer and wiser to not have service. Here’s the logic:

1. We are structured around running water for hygiene. Can we leave it at that for “graphic” purposes? And knowing that many folks were in the same no-water situation at home, it seemed prudent not to put them all in one place.

2. The fire department uses water to deal with fires. They do not have a different water source than your home or the church building. They have a crisis plan, but really, is it responsible and neighborly to increase the risk of them needing to use it?

3. At least some of our normal evening folks were headed out to buy bottled water and deal with the issues of home. Knowing you need to take care of family, is it not better to make provision for the time?

That’s what went into the decision.

Here’s the morning sermon: Exodus 20:1-3 (audio link)

Audio player:

Video:

Outline:

January 21 Exodus 20 First Commandment

Passage: Exodus 20:1-3

20 Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 3 Do not have other gods besides me.1

-------------------------

1 Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Ex 20:1–3.

And the Lord spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought out you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of servitude.

3 “⌊You will not have⌋ other gods except me. 1

-------------------------

1 Rick Brannan et al., eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Ex 20:1–3.

Context:

After the Exodus from Egypt

Before the Promised Land

Hopeful Times

Overview:

The "imperative/future/command" of "You will not--" this is not an option!

"Before/Besides/In My Presence"

Oh, and His presence is *everywhere*

Also note that this is not where the golden calf comes into play.

Reflections:

What are the other gods we have?

Expectations:

THROW OUT YOUR FALSE GODS

False Gods to be Destroyed:

  1. Success
  2. Prowess
  3. Pseudo-spiritual nonsense
  4. Wealth
  5. Pleasures
  6. Influence
  7. Political Capital
  8. Independence
  9. Self-salvation

Friday, January 19, 2018

John 4:46-5:32 #eebc2018

John continues his Gospel with a look at the next two “signs” of Jesus as the Messiah. The first “sign” was in John 2 (see John 2:11) where the water was turned into wine. Now we come to the next two of the “signs.”

Remember that John labels the miracles of Jesus that he reports as “signs,” showing us that he is reporting only those miracles that are needed to make the point. Further, it shows that John knew he had to leave out some events (John 21:25) so his choices were guided by purpose. In modern times, we’d assume that meant he left out parts of the story that didn’t help, but that is far from being certain. Further, what would undo these miracles?

The second sign in John is the healing of an official’s son. Jesus has returned to Cana and the first response is a lament over the people’s demand for more signs. Jesus had already done a sign there, but it wasn’t enough.

A word of caution: let what Jesus has done be enough, rather than demanding more from Him. His grace is sufficient to meet your needs with newness when you truly need it!

The power of Jesus to heal at a distance is seen elsewhere, like the story of the Centurion in Luke 7:1-10. There is no reason to think John didn’t know the difference between a “royal official” and a “centurion,” much less a “son” and a “servant,” so there is no need to compress those two into the same story.

We then get the third sign, the healing at Bethesda. There’s a name that comes back—think about Bethesda Naval Hospital (that is now officially Walter Reed Hospital, after the National Naval and Army Hospitals were merged)—among other uses of the term. There is also some question here about whether the verse explaining the angelic troubling of the waters is original to John or was added later. That’s why a more recent Bible translation will footnote the lines.

John is less concerned with the issue of angels and more on the fact that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Why? Because that’s what the religious leaders are worked up over! Here stands someone able to heal a paralysis that has lasted almost 4 decades, and they’re stressed about the day of the week.

Do we ever do that?

More thoughts on John 4 are here and John 5 here

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Genesis 11 #eebc2018

Well, the Tower of Babel is here. And, if you read Genesis 11 in the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), then you saw it labeled the Tower of Babylon. Well, actually, it’s never referred to in the text as the “Tower of” anything. They went to build a tower, and then city came to be called Babel, which can also be translated as Babylon. It’s on the plain called Shinar, which is Babylon. It’s also where the modern nation of Iraq is.

The story is fairly well-known, and worth revisiting briefly. What made the tower sinful? Was it the unity of mankind? Or their obstinate desire to stay together instead of fill the earth? Now, I’m of the opinion that Genesis 11:1-9 tells us what happened that led to the division and dispersion described in Genesis 10. We almost always (unless you’re in a Christopher Nolan movie) tell stories linearly—we would not start the Civil War with the Battle of Atlanta, then tell Vicksburg, the Antietam, then Gettysburg.

Ancient narratives are not bound by this linear habit. They are truthful and bound by clear statements, like “this happened, then this happened,” (or “Day 5, then Day 6”), but otherwise a summary can proceed a recapitulation—picture the news announcing that the Arkansas Razorbacks won the National Championship, then showing highlights. That’s my take on Genesis 11 and Genesis 10. (Singular events in history, like Razorback championships…)

So, what about the Tower? First, it was likely more of a pyramid or ziggurat than what we think of as a tower. Why? Engineering skills available at the time, that’s why. It’s an artificial mountain, basically.

What would make that sinful? Well, back up two chapters. God had judged sin through a flood. Through The Flood. But He promises to never flood all of everything again, so what’s the escape if there is some flooding? A mountain, right?

So if you want to evade responsibility to God, evade judgment, you need a mountain. And you build one…and God knows what you’re doing, and why. And He stops you, scatters you across the earth.

Then you find that multitudes of ancient people groups built…pyramids. They built artificial mountains. Think that’s an accident? Not likely. Bad ideas recur throughout history. Think we can find a way out of God’s judgment is a bad idea…and it’s one that recurs, often.

Now, a connection to the Tower of Babel (I grew with that label, so I’ll stick with it) that you need to make is to Acts 2. Why? One of the biggest obstacles to the spread of the Gospel is the inability to communicate across language barriers.Those barriers are the result of Babel—and Acts 2 shows the power of God to bridge those barriers. These days, we know there are people who need Jesus and we can plan ahead and learn languages, find translators. But in that first moment, God worked miraculously to spread the Gospel because God’s grace is amazing and begins to undo all the curse.

We then get the heritage of Abram as descended from Shem. Another point of note is the phrase in Genesis 11:10, translated by the CSB as “These are the family records of…” (Shem, here) is a recurring phrase in Genesis. It is possible that these were records preserved and in the possession of Moses, which he utilized under the guidance of God, to construct these parts of Genesis. Or they serve as section headings. (See more here)

But they definitely help outline Genesis. Watch for them as you read: Genesis 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10;11:27; 25:12; 25:19; 36:1; 37:2. Be careful, always, searching for “hidden” meanings that require obscure knowledge, but remember that God speaks through words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs and sections—you get the point.

See you tomorrow, back in John!

More on Genesis 11 is here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Genesis 9 and 10 #eebc2018

Good morning! Moving forward, we go past the Flood. The world as we know it was formed partly through this cataclysm. One of the side effects of the Flood is the elimination of the physical location of the Garden of Eden and any other locations (like Nod) from the first chapters of Genesis. So, no, that social media post that claims someone found the Garden of Eden is most likely not right—the destruction of a year under water most likely eliminated any measurable trace.

What do we have in Genesis 9?

First, we have the establishment of God’s covenant with humanity not to destroy it all by a Flood again. It seems that people have misunderstood this covenant to say that there would never be any judgment, but God is not going to simply ignore sin. He is a righteous God and must deal with sin.

That His judgment could come some other way seems to slip our grasp. It might be worth reading 2 Peter 3:1-7

Another intriguing point of these chapters is that they raise the first prohibition on murder on a wide-scale. It’s couple with declaring animals allowable for food—but certainly this is not just about avoiding cannibalism. I w0uld suggest that God is restricting the punishment mankind should mete out on others for their sin—even today, we often decide to be like God in judgment rather than like God in knowledge. Which makes our judgment somewhat suspect, true?

The other story in Genesis 9 needs a brief mention and a clear statement. Noah plants a vineyard, then becomes intoxicated from drinking the wine that results. There’s not much to discuss here—some arguments are made that he meant to make wine, others that he didn’t, usually in the name of trying to keep him righteous—it’s clear that drunkenness is a problem. You should not get drunk.

The two issues that we need to learn from that section are these:

1. What is our reaction to those whose sin has overtaken them? Do we point and laugh? Or do we help cover their shame (not ‘cover-up’ their sin, Noah’s drunkenness was obviously not kept secret) and work for redemption later?

2. The other idea that has arisen from this passage is one of the worst theological ideas to be put forth. Unlike some ideas, like anti-supernaturalism, that claim the Word of God is inaccurate, this one comes from misunderstanding and thereby misapplying what the Word of God says. There was a time when the curse pronounced over Ham and Canaan was interpreted as resulting in their descendants deserving slavery, and then taking Genesis 10 into account, connecting that with the practice of slavery based on racial heritage.

That’s wrong. It’s wrong on many levels (I’d suggest any person thinking they can “own” another person is wrong), but let’s keep this one focused. First, there is a misapplication of generational responsibility for sin. Second, there’s a mistaken assumption that anyone in the recent world has a pure enough heritage to be only from one of the three sons of Noah instead of intermingled. Finally, such a view directly conflicts with Galatians 3:28-29.

In short, it was bad theology generated to justify wicked behavior. Unfortunately, the echoes of the idea linger to this day. Mankind is all descended from those first two made in the image of God. Hold on to that the next time someone posits the superiority of one skin color over another.

Then we hit Genesis 10—it’s frequently called the Table of Nations and describes the spread of humanity after the Flood. It’s likely a summary that precedes the driving events of Genesis 11, but it’s also possible that the Babel story focuses on one group and the effects are wide ranging.

For more on Genesis 9, try here. For more on Genesis 10, hit here. (and here)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book: Vindicating the Vixens

VindicatingCoverWell, if Vindicating the Vixens doesn’t catch your attention as a book title, I’m not sure what would. This volume, edited by Sandra L. Glahn (PhD), provides a look at some of the women of the Bible who are “Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized.” As is frequently the case, I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Let’s take this a stage at a time. First stage: book setup. This is primarily an academic Biblical Studies book. Be prepared to see discussions of Greek and Hebrew words, as appropriate. You’ll also need a handle on the general flow of Biblical narrative, a willingness to look around at history, and the other tools of someone who is truly studying the text. This is no one-day read. It’s a serious study of women in the Bible, specifically those who either faced sexual violence or who have been considered sexually ‘wrong’ across years of study.

A quick note: this book is timely, not opportunistic. The length of time to plan, assign, develop, and publish a multi-author academic book means Kregel Academic had this in the works before the current emphasis on sexual assaults. It’s a good book to speak on the issue, so it’s quite timely.

Second stage of book examination: authors. The contributors are graduate scholars in Biblical Studies with about half having completed doctoral studies and several others in process. All have worked in ministry and Biblical academics, and appear to reflect choices that will take the Biblical text seriously. That is, rather than coming to this subject in the interest of undermining the Bible to prove a point, instead these contributors are seeking to set right the understanding of the Bible.

Third, content. There’s nothing actually earth-shattering here, once you read it a second time. The first time, it’s all “Wait, that’s not what my preacher said…” (or worse, “That’s not what I said in a sermon!”) so the book must be wrong. But then, as you read through it again, there’s the realization that much of our understanding is traditionally informed. That is, we tend to hear from source A, who learned from Source B, and back it goes. And if somewhere up that line, an assumption was made and left unquestioned, it was then passed forward until the sermon you heard last week never questioned the idea.

Vindicating the Vixens questions some of those ideas. Glahn’s contributors take a look at women from Eve to Junia, and raise some very good points. Certainly some of the conclusions could be challenged, and it would be an interesting read to see the interplay. But I like the fresh look.

A good example is the examination of Rahab. I have seen previous attempts to make Rahab more righteous by going toward “innkeeper” for her profession. However, here we see her portrayed as the text gives it: she’s an outsider, a Canaanite, and likely a woman who rents not only rooms. Yet the redemption that God brings is amazing…and the Israelite spies aren’t exactly paragons of virtue. Throughout, Eva Bleeker keeps the reader going back to the text and dealing with the woman, Rahab, and what she means in the story, how she is valuable.

In all, I like this book. It’s timely, it stirs up questions that need to be answered, and it challenges some of the assumptions that we’ve brought through previous eras into our understanding of Scripture.

Genesis 7 and 8 #eebc2018

Tuesday morning! Time to move back over to the Pentateuch. In church Sunday morning, we ran down the basic outline of Old Testament history. Your first four points on the outline are: Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. We’re at the point of reading through Noah’s story.

An important aside is about that word, “story,” which we sometimes hesitate to apply to Biblical texts. After all, Cinderella is a “story,” and it’s not entirely true, is it? So we want to be clear that Bible “stories” are not like other “stories” where there’s a nugget of truth buried in there somewhere. In many books, we’ll see the term “narrative” applied, because that’s a grammatical term that doesn’t carry any baggage. The catch?

It basically means “story.” So, if you can learn “narrative,” you can learn that “story” does not mean true or false, but simply means the retelling of events from a perspective.

Now, onto the perspective: Genesis 6, 7, and 8, give us the Flood. This is God’s judgment on the world for an excessive sinfulness that cannot be ignored. While we somehow turn it into a cute children’s story with animals on the boat, it’s actually a fairly gruesome moment. Consider just how much death is involved here, folks. We tend to minimize the numbers because the Bible is focusing down onto one small group of people, but statistical estimates range sometimes into the billions. Sin isn’t cute. Never has been.

Now, the other claim that is out there is that the Flood narratives are a hodge-podge, drawn from multiple other ancient sources. There’s a unity of thought, here, though, that undercuts the “it’s multiple stories mushed together” viewpoint. Also, two can play the “source” game: how do we know that Noah’s story didn’t morph into Gilgamesh’s? Or any of several others?

Quite frankly, a lot of that research comes back to preconceptions when you approach the text. I’m not particularly open-minded, being a Bible-believing preacher. I naturally assume the best of the Scriptural text. However, there are others who come to the text assuming it must be false—that’s as much of a bias as my assumption it must be true. Keep this in mind: it is not any more “academic” or “educated” to start with the assumption God has lied than it is to start with the assumption God has been truthful.

Now, that is not to say that there is not a common story at the back of most of the flood tales around the world. Just that, if we’re going to assume that one story is true and the rest derivative, where does the evidence fall? It might fall more toward Noah than to anywhere else.

Then, there’s one last thought about this passage: Noah takes some of the clean animals that have survived…and sacrifices them. If sheep had feelings, that would hurt. I find it kind of funny…

More on Genesis 7 here and 8 here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sermon Recap for January 14

Good evening! Here are the sermons from yesterday:

First, this audio player will work through the entire sermon archive, starting with January 14 PM and then you can listen off the list.

Sunday Morning (Audio download here, click and save)


Sunday Evening (Audio download here, click and save)

John 3:22-4:45 #eebc2018

It’s Monday! So, we’re back on a Gospel reading. If you’re wondering why we started in John, it’s because I really like John. It’s also because Mathew, Mark, and Luke are usually the first ones read since they come first, but I wanted to mix it up in our reading. There’s a value in making sure we’re not a in a rut as we read.

Before we get to the text, it’s worth a stop to think about why the banks are closed today and the mail’s not running. Not too long ago, we as a nation needed a reminder to live up to our ideals, that All men are created equal. That reminder was driven by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the community he was able to rally on point, and unfortunately it took too many churches a long time to catch up. Remember this truth: God made all of humanity in His image—so let’s take a step back from our “I’m awesome, and if the more like me you are, the more awesome you might be…” approach and see people and their heritage, all the way around, as gifts from God.

Now, on to the text: John 3 moves on to deal with John the Baptist and his willingness to fade into the background. Both John and Jesus are out baptizing, but the first “church competition” starts up and John’s losing.

The important point is this: John doesn’t care. His disciples are stressed about this, but he’s good with the reality: it’s about Jesus. It’s about the Kingdom of God and the need of people for a savior. Something not in the text, but that I can picture, is some of Jesus’ disciples roaming around and pointing out “we’ve got more followers than John!”

Competition is antithetical to the Kingdom of God, though. It’s not about whether this church grows or that church grows. It’s about whether or not Jesus is glorified. Imagine a knight returning to his king, pointing out that he was the best knight—the king will then point out that he’s still a knight. The king never changes. It’s always his kingdom….

John 4 moves to Samaria. We like to make ourselves feel good here, but realize this: we’re the ones that would cut off Jesus from interacting with the lost world. In this story, we’re often more like the disciples than even the woman at the well. She knew she needed Jesus. They thought it beneath Him to talk to some people…anytime we make others “some people,” we are pushing back against what Jesus has said.

Which brings us back to the introduction: The Gospel is for all people. And when we divide our world into “some people” and “our people,” we run a great risk of missing the true point.

More on John 3 and John 4.

Friday, January 12, 2018

John 1:35-3:21 #eebc2018

Well, there’s a lot to cover in this passage. That’s what comes of using a computer program to generate a reading plan: it may stretch it farther or make it lopsided. You might need to spread out some of the Friday readings.

This one moves from the public identification of Jesus by John through the calling of the first disciples and then to the first of the miracles identified by John as a “sign” of Jesus as the Messiah. Then we have the interaction of Nicodemus.

Let’s work quickly:

1. I find it interesting that you have public action, public action, public action, and then a private conversation with Nicodemus. This is something to watch in John: the balance between public and private actions in John. Note, for example, that the miracle is public though the actual disclosure of how it happened was not.

2. There is no linguistic or grammatical reason to think that “wine” means anything other than “wine.” That does not mean that Jesus endorses general alcohol consumption and it’s plain that drunkenness is a sin. The telling reality is that it took until the American Prohibition movement of the late 1800s for anyone to define the Greek word for “wine” as anything but wine. If it takes 1800 years to redefine a word, there’s a question there.

Now, wine was typically diluted and drunkenness was frowned upon, so there’s really no parallel to modern wine. Think of it this way: you’re probably talking consuming a beverage that has a grape (or other fruit, probably grape) flavor but is mostly water. A usual ratio was 3 or 4 parts water to 1 part wine. A typical modern wine takes about 3 glasses to hit the legal intoxication limit—you’d have to quintuple that to make the same alcohol content. That’s if there was any strength to the wine. It may have been very weak.

What’s the value? A bit of alcohol kills a lot of bacteria. That’s the main thing that’s happening.

Jesus turning water into wine does not justify beverage alcohol. The cultural gap is bigger than that.

3. Note that the first disciples rapidly bring others to Christ—the Gospel travels most rapidly down relational lines.

Further thoughts: John 2 and John 3 (and more John 3)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Genesis 5 and 6 #eebc2018

Today’s reading (I’m certainly going to try and get ahead so these are up earlier in the morning!) comes from Genesis. We’ve already noted how the world has gone from good to bad to worse.

Now we come to the first part of Genesis that tends to bog down. Keep in mind that we’re dealing with a story of beginnings, of origins. So you’re going to encounter a genealogy or two along the way. The story of Genesis focuses in, starting with all of creation, then narrowing down to humanity, then it narrows further—by Genesis 12, it’s the story of the family of Abraham and by the end of the book, it’s the Israelite people.

So, that’s Genesis 5. Take the long lifespans as they are: it’s possible that these are meant to show extended families, but the simplest reading suggests long life. I think this is illustrative of the effects of sin: it’s like a growing crack or a spreading mold. At first, there’s just one bad spot, but then, over time, it gets worse and worse.

Same thing here with the effects of the fall on humanity’s lifespan. Initially, you still have long life, just like the genetic corruption permits marriage/reproduction relationships with close kinfolk. (The Garden of Eden may have been in Ala….wait, no Alabama jokes, sorry. Roll on.)

There are also some evidences that the environment was significantly different in the antediluvian (pre-Flood) era. That may account for some things as well.

Genesis 6 sets the stage for the Flood. We see that humanity had turned against God and His ways, and so God purposes to destroy mankind. Noah finds “favor” in the eyes of the Lord…a word that could also be translated as “Grace.”

Remember that: Noah was not righteous enough to merit salvation, but his commitment to God in faith was enough to be met with God’s grace.

For further reading:

Blog on Genesis 5

Genesis 6 and more and more

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Genesis 3 and 4 #eebc2018

And now, things go badly. Genesis 1 and 2 left us with a world in good shape. In fact, God had said it was “very good.”

Then people turn loose and start making poor decisions. It starts with Adam and Eve being convinced that God didn’t mean what He said about the fruit. There is where we often go wrong. It is a dangerous thing to assume that God did not mean what He said, whether by adding to it or taking away from it.

Or by attempting to explain it away. While the value of deep research into the linguistics and backgrounds of Scripture is inestimable, we must be cautious when someone tells us that what the text says plainly isn’t what it means, in fact it’s the opposite. This is the lie Satan started with, and it’s a lie that recurs to this day.

Then, things get worse. It does seem that this is the nature of human history—we always find a way to make it worse. Treason against God gives way to murder, murder adds cover-ups and deception, and the community is shattered by the end of Genesis 4.

I would make note of a couple of things here:

First, our obedience as Christians is due to God first. If we are not obedient to Him, then our relationship with God will suffer. In fact, before we come to Christ, our relationship to God is in even worse shape. It is sundered, cut apart. When that fails, we have little left to lean on.

The second, though, is this: our relationships with each other are also critical and can be destroyed by sin. These relationships fall after our relationship to God, but they fall just the same.

You see this in the progression from Genesis 3 to Genesis 4, as sin eats up first Adam and Eve’s relationship with God and then destroys their family. The message is clear: we need each other and we need God, and we must avoid sin’s destruction of those relationships.

For further reading: Genesis 3 and Genesis 4

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Daily Reading: Genesis 1 and 2

Today’s reading covers the opening of Scripture. To give a bit of background, the typically accepted view of Genesis in Baptist life is that it was written by Moses as part of the Pentateuch (which Jesus said came from Moses, so unless you want to dismiss what Jesus said or try to explain it away, I’d say we can trust Him). That makes Genesis part of the oldest section of the Bible.

(We tend to think Job may be as old, but that’s it.)

Genesis covers the beginnings, starting with Creation. The first chapter starts with nothing present but God. There is no discussion of the origin of God because God transcends creation, being the One who is always.

That’s the key here: Genesis 1 and 2 are not out to explain the origin of God. The goal is to explain the origin of humanity, more specifically the origin of the Israelites.

The other quick thing to note is that these 2 chapters are the only 2 chapters in the Old Testament where everything is alright. They form, with Revelation 21 and 22, the only 4 chapters to record creation and humanity as we ought to see it. It’s worth noting that the slice of time that we live in will pale in comparison to the amount of time where we need no revealed words from God because we will be in His presence, just as it is immeasurable what was happening before we turn the page to Genesis 3—presence is better than text. But for now, what we have is text and the presence of the Spirit, who we have trouble sometimes heeding, to guide us in the text.

Further reading: the ESV Study Bible and the CSB Study Bible have good notes on this, the Creation Ministries International website is also good. There are blog posts here and here that deal with these chapters of Genesis.

Monday, January 8, 2018

John 1:1-34

Today’s Bible reading was from John. Specifically, it was John 1:1-34, covering the Prologue of the Gospel of John and the testimony of John the Baptist.

I thought I’d give you a few quick thoughts on tis passage for the day:

1. John’s view of the beginning of all things is different from most of the world in which he lived. The idea that God the Father and God the Son (later you’ll seem him bring in God the Spirit, but his delay is related to teaching order, not a belief that the Spirit came later) pre-exist all of creation is not echoed in any of the mythologies of his time. Only in the Genesis account do we find a pre-existing God who was and is and is always God. Greece, Rome, Egypt, and many others had gods who had taken the place of other gods, with creation as an after-effect and not a deliberate act.

It’s also worth noting when you read Genesis 1 tomorrow that putting John and Genesis together gives you God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit at Creation. John has 2/3, Genesis has 2/3…

2. John moves quickly to establishing the divide between John the Baptist and Jesus. It’s important to never allow someone to confuse the Christian with the Christ, the servant with the Savior. John is clear about himself and John the Baptist: neither are the light.

3. Note the questions given to John: when you need to know, ask questions. Ask again, and again, if need be.

4. John calls Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It’s a singular noun there, sin. What does that tell us? Our individual problems are part of a bigger one, but our Savior is bigger still.

5. For further reading on John 1, click here.

Sermon Recap for January 7 2018

Well, we’ve hit the first Sunday of the year.It always feels like I should say more about the change in calendar, but I don’t quite know for sure what to raise. I think I was a bit fragmented both services—there were a couple of things I meant to address but didn’t, though I hit a couple of points I felt were more important.

I’ve got the video of both sermons and the audio from the morning. Unfortunately, the background hum is getting worse, despite the fact that it was actually gone for a while, so the evening audio is useless. It’s not uploaded because it really can’t be listened to.

Here’s the morning video:

Morning Audio:


Evening Video:

Monday, January 1, 2018

Sermon Recap for Dec 31 2017

Well, it’s January 1, 2018, but the sermon is from yesterday. It’s time to start up for next year, but first, of course, we have to wind down last year. Please consider your commitment to the cause of Christ in the new year. And I don’t mean that with any subtext, subterfuge, or ulterior motive—take it at face value: is your goal that 2018 reflect your work for the cause of Jesus?

Now, sermons:

Here’s the December 24 video as it posted live through Facebook. I’m not sure it turned out with great quality, but it’s tolerable. That’s a tech problem that I haven’t had time to solve:

Here is the December 31 AM Sermon (audio link is here)

Now, I don’t remember if I posted December 24th’s morning sermon, so here it is:

December 24 Audio is here

Service Recap for August 9 2020

Good morning! Here are the service from August 9th: Remember that the Morning Reflection videos are now at The Well Traveled Path