Archive for October, 2008

Friends,

Came across this while perusing JI Packer’s Knowing God. Thought you might enjoy it too.

“We need frankly to face ourselves at this point. We are, perhaps, orthodox evangelicals. We can state the gospel clearly; we can smell unsound doctrine a mile away. If asked how one may know God, we can at once produce the right formula: that we come to know God through Jesus Christ the Lord, in virtue of his cross and mediation, on the basis of his word of promise, by the power of the Holy Spirit, via a personal exercise of faith. Yet the gaiety, goodness, and unfetteredness of spirit which are the marks of those who have know God are rare among us–rarer, perhaps, than they are in some other Christian circles where, by comparison, evangelical truth is less clearly and fully known. Here, too, it would seem that the last may prove to be the first, and the first last. A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about him.” (JI Packer, Knowing God, 25-26)
I wonder in which category we happen to find ourselves: Knowledge of or knowledge about. Think about it.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Advertisements

Friends,

Here’s a quote from Eugene Peterson’s book on the Revelation Reversed Thunder:

The subtlest and most common attack in the satanic assault on God’s ways among us is a subversion of the word. This subversion unobtrusively disengages our imagination from God’s word and gets us to think of it as something wonderful in print, at the same time that it dulls any awareness that it is spoken by a living God. It has been an enormously successful strategy: millions of people use the Bible in which they devoutly believe to condemn people they do not approve of; millions more read the word of God daily and within ten minutes are speaking words to spouses, neighbors, children, and collegues that are contemptuous, irritable, manipulative, and misleading. How does this happen? How is it possible for people who give so much attention to the word of God, to remain so unaffected by it?

Yes indeed. How have we remained unaffected by the living word?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

This sermon manuscript is from this past Sunday (Oct 26) at the church. This is sermon 5 in my short series exploring the narrative high-points of the Scripture from Genesis through Revelation. This sermon focuses on the promised king who was exemplified by the man David. My original intent was to make a few observations about David’s kingship based on 2 Samuel 5-7. Indeed, that’s where I begin the sermon with some excerpts from chapters 5, 6, and 7 of 2 Samuel. As the research progressed I realized that I would not be able to merely talkabout the Israelite king without going back to Deuteronomy and then going into the prophets and eventually tracing this history to the New Testament books of Matthew, John, and Revelation. So, I limited my own thoughts and simply let the congregation hear a great deal more of what Scripture says about the ‘root and offspring of David.’ David is important, as I note in the sermon, but David is not (and was not intended to be) an end in himself. He points us forward to the Great King that the Israelites were to expect and the King we now serve and under whose authority we live.

90 Days with Scripture

Week 5: October 26, 2008

2 Samuel 5-7: The King of God’s People

Introduction

1 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’ ” 3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. (2 Samuel 5)

_____________________

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel-I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” 23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (2 Samuel 6)

_________________________

18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:

“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD ? 20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign LORD. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

22 “How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel-the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?  24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.

25 “And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, ‘The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you. 27 “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer. 28 O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.” (2 Samuel 7)

______________________

David’s story sits in a particularly interesting place in Scripture: after the Judges before the prophets. After the Judges means that he is coming into being at the time when ‘there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’ Before the prophets means that he was a powerful figure before the prophets started to lament the corruption of Israel and her magnificent downfall and predict the coming of a King who would be the King who truly followed in the footsteps of David.

There’s a lot that can be said about the Davidic king. David is named in the Scripture almost a thousand times. By way of contrast, Moses was named only around 800 times. I could also note that David seems to be the reason why the book of Ruth was included in our canon. David is the culmination of the books of Samuel & Chronicles. David is the author of most of the Psalms. David is the standard by which all other kings of Israel would be measured. We are told that it was David’s kingdom that would stand in perpetuity. David is no insignificant figure in the history of Christianity. In fact, in our last canonical book, the Revelation, David is prominently mentioned. But more importantly, it is the role of David that is of more significant-his role as king of Israel.

__________________

King wasn’t a new idea. The Lord had anticipated that Israel would want a king. In Deuteronomy 17, we read:

14 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” 15 be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. 16 The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” 17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.

By the time we arrive at the book of 1 Samuel, following closely on the heals of Judges when ‘there was no king and every one did as he saw fit,’ we should be expecting what would happen:.

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”

David was the height of a righteous king. After David, it pretty much went downhill. There were occasional bright spots, but for the most part the kings of Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not walk in the ways of their father David.

_____________________

It got so bad that eventually the kingdom split, the people, including the king, were carried into exile. The prophets would prophesy that at some point David would regain his throne. Isaiah prophesied: (9:6-7)

6 For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace

there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the LORD Almighty

will accomplish this.

And also: (11:5)

5 In love a throne will be established;

in faithfulness a man will sit on it-

one from the house of David-

one who in judging seeks justice

and speeds the cause of righteousness.

Continue Reading »

Friends,

In this newest post, I continue my series on developing the language of prayer by looking at six very short (one or two line) prayers found in the Old and New Testaments. Prayer, says Eugene Peterson, is one of the best ways to express the rather gritty nature of our humanity. We should think of prayer not in the high language of prayer books and the like, but as those whose prayers became Scripture for us did: In the every language of life on earth. So we pray about things like pain, abandonment, submission, forgiveness, and repentance. These are not easy prayers to pray, but perhaps we can learn something about God by praying these simple prayers or perhaps our prayers will become more honest to God when we pray. These prayers are not easy to pray, but they also express our constant neediness before God and demonstrate that we remain, always, dependent upon him. Thanks for stopping by.

Prayers examined in Part 2: 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, 2 Samuel 24:10, Luke 22:42, Luke 23:34, Luke 23:46, Matthew 27:46, Psalm 22

Developing the Language of Prayer, pt 1

Developing the Language of Prayer, pt 2

Thanks again.

jerry

Friends,

I am a huge fan of David Wells, Andrew Mutch Distinguish Professor of Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and he was recently a guest on the White Horse Inn. You can access the episode here (a short registration is required).

Wells is a profound thinker who has analyzed the culture of churchianity and demonstrated rather thoroughly how deficient much of our current evangelicalism is in America.

White Horse Inn has also provided a couple of links to essays by Wells that are worth the read. In The Changing of the Guard and What It Means For Christians Today Wells writes,

We are living, I believe, in a unique cultural moment. Every generation, I know, imagines that it is unique. And most generations, unfortunately, believe that their uniqueness lies in their superiority over all that lies in the past. Mark Twain once observed that when he was a boy he was embarrassed because of his father, who appeared to know so little, but when the younger Twain was a few years older, he was amazed at how much his father had learned in so short a period of time! Every generation tries to get airborne on the plastic wings of this kind of conceit, and in this atmosphere it is almost inevitable that we become breathless about the present and begin to say and do foolish things, as did the pastor whose morning prayer in church began: “O Lord, have you seen the New York Times today?”

In a second link, On My Mind: The Skinny God, He writes:

Many years ago, J. B. Phillips wrote a book called Your God is Too Small. It was quite popular at the time, in 1952, although it now seems rather quaint. The juvenile understanding of God Phillips was attacking then is, by contemporary standards, rather innocent. This, however, is a book which I believe should be written afresh every decade. For is it not the case that our internal bias (cf. Rom. 1:21-5) constantly tilts us away from God’s centrality and toward our own? And does this not lead us to focus more on ourselves and less on him? Even worse, don’t we then substitute our importance for his greatness?

This inward bias is now being mightily encouraged by our experience of the modern world, the upshot of which is our fascination with our self. Those who are well fed seldom think about food but for the hungry this becomes a consuming preoccupation. And for modern people, the self has likewise become an obsession. We are the starved. How else can we explain the fact that America has half the world’s clinical psychologists and one third of the world’s psychiatrists? Over approximately the last thirty years, the number of clinical psychologists has increased 350%, clinical social workers 320%, and family counselors 680%, so that today we have two psychotherapists for every dentist and there are more counselors than librarians. The plagues of the modern self are providing sustenance for an extraordinary number of professionals, as well as driving a burgeoning publishing industry.

Wells is dead-on in his analysis of the church culture and the culture at large. I highly recommend his writing. Follow this link to find links to four of Wells’ most important books. I’m not suggesting that you will fully agree with everything he has to say because at times his ideas of Sovereignty are a bit much, but I am confident you will resonate with his thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I have a new post at Advance Signs concerning a mission called Blood:Water Mission. This is a mission work of the band Jars of Clay. Post includes links and 4 minute youtube introduction to the work. Stop by to learn more about this work being done to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa.

jerry

Friends,

I have not spent a great deal of time here, I don’t think, writing about the likes of Joel Osteen (& others) primarily because I don’t read their books or watch their programs or listen to their sermons. (Anytime I hear a snippet or a blurb, in the words of Mr Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants, “I think I’m gonna be sick.) I normally leave the critiquing to others even though I’m well aware of the danger of their ‘gospel.’

That said, I want to direct your attention to imonk who has posted a couple of youtube videos concerning Joel Osteen. One is from Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill and the other is from Michael Horton of White Horse Inn. In this post, he only has the clips and a conversation thread. In the thread, he responds to a question about Joyce Meyer with this answer:

>Would you be willing to send her to Joyce Meyer, when other genuine Christians, believers and lovers of Jesus, have testified that Meyer has helped them overcome the darkness of their past?

Absolutely not. I’m not going to start a Meyer thread, but she bilked $54 million off needy people, lives like a queen, practices the most perposterous [sic.] phony acts of compassion and unless she’s changed, denies essentials to the Gospel. Her interview with todd wilkin [sic.] on issues, etc and the coverage of her by the St. Louis newspaper are both required. She’s a thief and a liar, just like the rest of them. They should be repudiated and condemned by every pastor and minister with any integrity. Tell the truth about these people! They are thieves enriching themselves and using the money that could help millions to live in palaces! What Jesus is that?

In a second post on Osteen (The Osteen Review 90% of Evangelicals Won’t Write), imonk praises Newsweeks review of Victoria Osteen’s new book. He sums up his concern about Osteen’s teaching with this powerful remark:

With all due repect [sic.], Osteen is preaching a false gospel- a lie-representing it as the true Gospel, turning millions OFF of the truth (Name one Osteen disciple who is now a sound Christian who repudiates the prosperity lie) and is setting the table for a further humiliation of the Gospel in America. Millions will be in hell because of Osteen.

Wow! That is a serious assessment. The conversation thread at imonk iss always worth the read. If you are a big fan of Osteen or Meyer or you are thinking of becoming a big fan, listen first to imonk and get another opinion first. imonk has some other important links for you to follow.

jerry

Technorati Tags, , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friends,

Here’s a funny story from the Christian Post: “No God” Ads to Hit London Buses. I guess Dick and his friends at the British Humanist Association are raising money (or have already and continue to do so) in order to put advertisements on city buses. Says the article:

The slogan is the brainchild of the British Humanist Association (BHA), an atheist organization that seeks to promote a world without religion where people are “free to live good lives on the basis of reason, experience and shared human values.”Among the campaign’s supporters is well-known atheist activist Richard Dawkins, who promised to match BHA’s goal of raising $9,000 for the ads, according to BBC.

But the group has now raised $59,000 on its own.

“Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride – automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children,” Dawkins told BBC.

What are they putting on the ads? “There’s Probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” These people are not real atheists; they’re posers. They don’t even have the sack to say: “There is No God.” Wimps. Chickens. Cowards. If they were real atheists they would state up front what they really mean and they would not be ashamed of it. I have now totally lost all respect for Dick and I will henceforth not be purchasing any more of his books.

Notice that the article calls this the ‘brainchild’ of the BHA. So all those ‘Brites’ and this is the best they could come up with? There probably is no God? Seriously? That is absolute genius! Really, these people need to stop embarrassing themselves in public.

Here all this time I thought he was serious. He’s just joking around. On the other hand, one person did get something right:

“This campaign will be a good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life,” said the Rev. Jenny Ellis, a Methodist spirituality and discipleship officer.

I don’t know what a spirituality and discipleship officer is, but I think she is right. If such a thing gets people to thinking about whether or not such a statement is true, then this is a good thing. I have a suspicion we’re all going to find out some day anyhow whether we like it or not. We should say thanks to all the fake-atheists for doing some evangelism for us in the meantime.

Posers.

jerry

Technorati Tags, , , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friends,

So I was watching Hannity and Colmes last night with my wife and afterward I watched about 10 minutes of Greta. I don’t care about politics this year and I have decided that I am not voting for either Senator Obama or Senator McCain, but something came up in the course of these two shows that illustrates an important point. It goes something like this.

On the one hand, the Democrat party continues to point out to America that Senator McCain is too closely linked to George W Bush. The add on television points out that McCain voted with President Bush 90% of the time. This, I suppose they are saying, is the reason we should not vote for McCain. That is, we don’t need another 4 years of President Bush. They want us to be afraid of lower taxes, a backbone, and a pro-life position.

On the other hand, the Republican party continues to point out to America that Senator Obama is too closely associated with people like Jeremiah Wright, Tony Resko, and Bill Ayres for us to trust him. His background is shady they say and thus we should not vote for him. That is, we don’t need another 4 years of President Clinton. The Republicans want us to be afraid of his association with these people who have demonstrated their hatred for America, shady business dealings, and their, well, hatred for America.

I guess what the two parties are saying is this: Which of the two has the worst associations? That is, when one of them is elected, whose friends would you rather see sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom: Obama’s or McCain’s? Or who do you hate worse: Bush or some people no one ever heard of until the election campaigns started? Biden goes off about McCain being Bush’s clone. Palin goes off about Obama being associated with criminals and anarchists. Is that really the substance of this election? Now you know why I’m not voting. Fact is Obama will change things and that frightens me. Fact is McCain won’t change much, if anything, and that frightens me too; perhaps more so.

Well, as I said, I’m not voting for either of them in the election. I dislike both candidates for a number of reasons and I am protesting both parties and their inability to put forth a candidate who matters. McCain is like Bush; looks like Chaney; acts like Bob Dole. Obama is like his past; acts like Clinton; and talks like the Rock. (Obama is not Messiah, and he is not JFK. He’s more Clinton (Bill) than anyone.) But when it gets right down to it, whose associations are the worst of the two? The question is, whom do we distrust more: George W Bush or Wright, Resko, and Ayres? I’m not voting for either, but I’ll say this much: I’d much rather have four more years of George W Bush than four years of Wright, Resko, and Ayres.

jerry

PS–as a side note, the Democrat party has been telling America for 8 years that George W Bush doesn’t care about us because he is too closely associated with ‘big oil’ and Haliburton and ‘the rich and powerful.’ Now, all of the sudden, they want me to just accept Senator Obama without any reference to the people he associates with (Wright, Resko, etc.). How am I to do this? If I should worry about Bush because of his ‘oil’ connections, should I not worry more about Obama’s connections to criminals?

PPS–I don’t mind if Bush’s economic strategies continue. In his 8 years, I have eliminated considerable debt, paid off my van, and bought my first house. I’m not terribly concerned about McCain’s continuation of Bush’s ‘failed’ economic strategy. It has worked for my family, praise be to God.

Friends,

I have a new post at my blog Advance Signs concerning Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Learn a little about what this ministry is doing in my neighborhood and link back to the FCA homepage where you can learn about starting FCA in your own school. Great thing about FCA is that it is open to everyone–you don’t have to be an athlete or even a Christian to attend.

jerry

Friends,

I found this interview with David F Wells a few years ago. I don’t remember where I found it (might have been Eerdman’s online). Anyhow, I thought you might appreciate some of what he has to say. Or not. jerry

Interview with David F. Wells, author of Above All Earthly Pow’rs (January 2006)

1. You open the book with a description of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. How do you see these terror attacks affecting the church in the postmodern world?
David Wells: For a few brief moments, we in the Church were wrenched away from our preoccupations with ourselves, with our own private, therapeutic needs, and we were confronted by an in-your-face act of evil. In fact, we were taken to school by reality! It was a sharp, painful encounter, like discovering, all too late, that one is walking across broken glass with bare feet.

Life in the Church, you see, is mostly about me, about what I find enjoyable, and what I need. Life in the world is often about what is wretchedly wrong, sometimes in ways that are ghastly, as was September 11.
It is hard to know whether evangelical faith was changed in any permanent way by this encounter. I think actually that it was a moment of embarrassing revelation. Surely evangelicals, the people of the Cross, would be those who know something about the reality of evil and God‘s way of conquering it through Christ‘s atonement. Surely, they would be to the fore in trying to explain this event to a bewildered and baffled nation? I wish I could say that light was shed on this tragedy in the numerous sermons I read subsequent to it, but, for the most part, I cannot. With a few exceptions, evangelicals, like everyone else, were left speechless and could only wring their hands. Ours is now a faith which is privately compelling but publicly irrelevant, to quote my friend Os Guinness. That is what I think we actually learn from September 11.

2. One of the things that makes your survey of the rise of postmodernism unique is the way in which you argue that immigration has contributed to the rise of postmodernism in the United States. How do you see this happening?

David Wells: What I have said is that immigration and the postmodern ethos of our time are two of the defining characteristics of this moment. However, the relation between these is many-sided and sometimes antagonistic.

There is no question that the combination of immigration and our media have made religious traditions that once were remote, far away, and even exotic, seem more ordinary and certainly more accessible today. To tap into Hinduism, we do not need to travel to India as so many did in the 1960s, like the Beatles. All we need to do is to look down the street to find some practicing Hindus. There are many in America who, as a result, are now raiding these religions and spiritual practices to build their own personal spiritualities. One of the current buzz words, for example, is ‘Metrospirituality.’ This is a Yuppie movement which is combining Eastern mysticism, from sources like Buddhism and Hinduism, and Western consumerism. Respecting the environment means buying a hybrid car and respecting one’s self means connecting with one’s own inner power and they are putting this together in a single spiritual package — Jamba Juice, meditation, kindness, and aromatherapy all rolled into one! This kind of thing no longer seems strange to us because we have become the most religiously diverse nation in the world, with East meeting West in the supermarket, at the gas station, and everywhere on television.

At the same time, many of the immigrants who are coming to America are bringing with them quite traditional moral beliefs and ideas about the family, beliefs which derive from either Protestantism or Catholicism. These beliefs are often at odds with the way postmodern America thinks of family and morality. Will these new arrivals be able to preserve their beliefs or will they become lost in the great postmodern pot which threatens to melt every belief they have?

3. What do you see as the difference between popular postmodernism and academic or intellectual postmodernism?

David Wells: The difference is less in the ideas than in the degree of self-consciousness, and often the clarity, with which they are expressed.

However, there is a myth which needs to be laid to rest here. Intellectuals like to think that they are society’s trend-setters, that what they are thinking is where reality is cresting. The result is that when intellectuals write about culture (and who else does?) they are inclined to see their ideas and their own culture as being in a cause-and-effect relation. They are the cause of which it is the effect.

In the modern period, however, this has rarely ever been the case. It is the culture, far more commonly, which gives the ideas their plausibility and which makes them seem inevitable. It is from the culture that ideas gain their traction and it is often because of the culture, when it changes, that they lose their traction. That is why, I believe, the Enlightenment ideology has lasted so long in the West and has become so deeply ensconced in our cultural elites, the gatekeepers, in academia, Hollywood, and many of our newspapers. The modernization of our society made Enlightenment ideas (like secular-humanism) seem inevitable, true, and incontrovertible. When this kind of public, cultural scaffolding began to shake in the 1960s, the ideas came tumbling down, leaving us with a void that the Enlightenment beliefs had once filled in our thinking. So we have come to be postmodern. For some, on one end of the intellectual scale, this is so in very cogent ways and for others, on the other end, it is so in ways that are more unthinking but nevertheless not any less real.

4. Your strong critique of contemporary “seeker-sensitive” styles of worship will come as a surprise to evangelicals who see this kind of worship as necessary to bringing people into the church. What are the greatest dangers of uncritically accepting this kind of worship?

David Wells: You are certainly right that my critique will come as a surprise to many evangelicals because they have come to think that the seeker-sensitive approach is the only game in town. It is also the only thing they know. And certainly it is what has made many churches big and important. These evangelicals also reject the alternative which they think of as being backward, obsolete, traditional, aging, not with-it, failing to reach a new generation, and therefore doomed to inevitable decline and irrelevance. I think these are false alternatives. I offer no brief for failing traditional churches which deserve to fail, but I hold out no hope for all of these trendy players in the church who are going to end up empty-handed. The inescapable fact is that the culture is offering just about everything that one can find in these churches but without all the inconveniences of having to be religious.

This experiment in doing church is already a demonstrable failure. Barna, who is both its architect and its chronicler, has demonstrated its failure. Week-by-week, his polls show that born-againers, so many of whom inhabit churches that are in the sensitive-mode, are biblically illiterate, live no differently from the secular and, in fact, only 9% have anything like a worldview (by which he means the most minimal set of Christian beliefs which inform the way they see life). He predicts that in five years the evangelical movement will be gone. Not even I have gone so far out on that kind of limb! He also predicts that within a few years, 50% of the churches will have melted away. Instead (and Barna thinks this is really great!) people will be following the current cultural mode of being spiritual but not religious, meaning that they will divest themselves even further of doctrinal belief and corporate involvement in a local church. Talk about a recipe for suicide!

Here will be the graveyard of evangelical faith and we are being led, step by step, into it by our oh-so-sensitive, trendy, with-it pastors. Taking us there has made them famous as they have become C.E.O.’s of big church enterprises, but the price of their fame and fortune is the bankruptcy of the faith, not by their overt heterodoxy but by their practice.

The fact is that Christ is not up for sale. His message is not in the marketplace begging for takers. And those pastors who so prostitute themselves will find that the faith they no doubt hold dear has slipped from between their fingers. Here is a paradox that neither the earlier Protestant liberals nor many of our currently sensitive evangelical pastors appear to have grasped: Christian faith which makes absolute truth claims, and demands a commitment which matches this absoluteness, against all cultural odds, thrives; Christian faith which mutes its truth claims in order to fit in, and dilutes the commitment it asks for in order not to be off-putting, is doomed. The issue here is not traditional versus contemporary. The issue is authentic versus inauthentic. It is historic Christian believing versus its remnants, its pale imitations, in the hands of these pragmatists.

Continue Reading »

Friends,

It is time to update my blogroll again. I have few new web sites and blogs for you to visit. I think you will appreciate this variety of new places to visit. Of course, I don’t necessarily endorse everything that is going on at these sites, but the goal here is to open you up to some resources that are available.

Follow the Rabbi: From their ‘Philosophy’ section:

Over 3,800 years ago, God spoke to Abraham: “Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you” (Gen. 13:17). From the outset, God’s choice of a Hebrew nomad was linked to the selection of a specific land where God’s redemptive work would take place. For us to better understand God’s plan and purpose for his people, we must first understand the nature of the place he selected for them.

This site is part of Ray Vanderlaan’s work That The World May Know. You will find tons of resources here to help you understanding of the Bible.

Thirdmill. From their ‘about’ section:

Third Millennium Ministries’ mission is to equip church leaders in their own lands by creating a multimedia seminary curriculum in five major languages in fifteen years.

You will find bible studies, multi-media, seminary level resources, books, and much, much more. This site is from a Reformed theological position, but you will be able to work through some of that stuff and get to the meat that matters.

The Threshing Floor. This is the blog of a friend of mine, Phil Miller. Phil doesn’t post too often, but when he does you can be sure it is worth the time to read it. Stop by and see Phil sometime.

I’ll be adding these to my blogroll. Have a visit.

jerry

Friends,

A while back I preached a series of sermons on what are called ‘the minor prophets.’ This is one of the sermons I preached in that series. It is from the book of Malachi. I’m thinking of adding the rest of the sermons to box.net. I agree that they are a bit rough. My preaching was going through a transition at the time so there were some hits and misses. In this sermon, I simply ask: If you had one more time to say something to someone, what would you say. Canonically speaking, Malachi is the last thing God said to Israel for 400 years. What did he say? That’s the point. jerry

Introduction

If you had one last try to convince someone of something before the whole world were turned upside down what would you say to them? How would approach someone if you wanted to give them one simple opportunity to get what others had said for you for several hundreds of years prior? As it turns out, God had sent prophet, after prophet, after prophet—starting all the way back in the days of Abel, Methuselah, and Noah—warning His wayward people, warning the people of earth—that things needed to change among those people.

He had sent Israel Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Later he sent Moses and Joshua. Then beyond that the Judges, Gideon, Deborah, Samson and the like. Then came Samuel. Then David and his son Solomon. And if that were not enough, He sent Elijah, Elisha and a whole slew of prophets from A to Z, Amos to Zechariah, and all those in between like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. He sent them during times of peace and in times of war. He sent them during the exile, before the exile and after the exile. There was never a time in the history of Israel when God did not have a prophet on the scene warning the people of the consequences of their actions.

Now the people had been back from the exile roughly 100 years. Things are up and running. Walls are built. Temple is constructed and being used on a regular basis. People are living in houses and planting crops. But something is not right. Something is amiss, strange, quirky. The people, I think it fairly obvious from Malachi’s book, did not even come close to noticing anything strange or wrong. The Lord will point it out to them—bluntly. He will ask them 7 questions, He will answer seven questions.
________________________
An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.
“I have loved you,” says the LORD.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD -even beyond the borders of Israel!’ “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
“You place defiled food on my altar.
“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’
“By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. “Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”-says the LORD Almighty.
______________________
Maybe the people did not know it, but the Lord did: This was the last prophet who would speak to the Israelites before that great and terrible Day of the Lord. And things must have been bad at the time. But let me ask, How bad to things have to be for the people of God to ask God, “How have you loved us?” How bad must things be for God’s people when they cannot even remember all that God has done for them?

Could we ever forget?

Then he charges them again: You have shown contempt for My Name. And they ask, “How have we shown contempt for Your Name?”  How bad must things be for God’s people that they have to ask, “How have we shown contempt for Your Name?” I mean, does this indicate that people have forgotten what is contemptible? Does this mean that people have forgotten the nature of a Holy God? Does this mean people are simply uninvolved in the Word of God? Does this mean they never pay attention to the prophets God sent them?

Have we ever shown contempt for God’s Name?

Then He charges them again saying: You have defiled me. And again the people respond by saying: How have we defiled you? And he condemns them by pointing out that they are bringing garbage before him to the altar. They are not bringing Him the best. They are like Cain who brought before God the least of His fruit and not the Best of his Flock.

Do we ever defile the Lord by bringing before him Garbage, the least we can offer instead of the best?
_______________________
“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’  And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.
__________________________
And here he points out the problem: This is reflecting negatively on me in the nations, from one end to the other the people of this world thing ill of me because of you—And that is not right. Paul speak a similar sentiment in Romans 2:

Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you

We have to be careful. We have to be mindful. And how often we forget that our actions reflect on God. The way we behave in the community, the things we complain about, the people we gossip about, the trouble we make, those we fail to protect. Our actions reflect loudly on our God.
_________________________

“And now this admonition is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me. “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.” Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty. Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.  “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
You have wearied the LORD with your words.

“How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”
Continue Reading »

Friends,

This is part two of my sermon on the Exodus narratives. In this sermon I focus on Pharaoh and the Passover. This is reverse side of the sermon for last week that focused on Prophets (Moses & Aaron) and the Plagues. The exodus, while a real even in history, also becomes a type of what God has done in Christ. Now he is still setting people free from slavery, but his people are not located in one particular nation, nor are his people from one particular nation. Instead, as John wrote in Revelation (Rev. 7:9), he is drawing people from every tribe, nation, people and language–a great multitude. But again, as I point out, this is not about mere liberation. If God is setting people free he is doing so that he may build a nation of those people who will, in Peter’s language, declare the praises of Him who set them free (see 1 Peter 2:9-10; Colossians 1:13-14). So we have no mere liberation theology here, but a powerful declaration of God who makes himself known (see Exodus 5:2 where Pharaoh says he does not know God; and 6:3, 7; 7:5, 17; 8:10, 22; 9:14, 29; 10:2; 14:4, 8 where God says these plagues were that he might make himself known.) Now God is known through Jesus Christ.

90 Days with Scripture
Week 4: October 19, 2008
Exodus 7-12: Freedom for God’s People, pt b

Introduction

1 Now the LORD had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)

4 So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt-worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.

9 The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you-so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire-head, legs and inner parts. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn-both men and animals-and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. 31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”

As I said last week, the Exodus of Israel from Egypt is likely the most significant historical event to ever occur on planet earth. The problem is that often times the Exodus has been reduced to a mere type with the requisite anti-type being neglected. That is, some have spent so much time focusing on the Exodus as mere Exodus that they have neglected the greater theological significance of the narrative itself. Thus, what I have tried to do in last week and this week is describe for you the theological significance of the type and the direction the type is pointing us; namely, Jesus Christ.

This is all to say that the Exodus narratives and the historical events themselves point us beyond the mere story of a nation being brought out of slavery; people being brought out of slavery is nothing new: We have had that happen in our own nation. This is not to denigrate such an accomplishment, but it is to say that what is more important than the exodus of the nation of Israel is the manner in which the events took place and what the author of the narratives told us about the events that took place. The author necessarily interpreted the events through a theological lens and his perspective is meant to shape our understanding of the God who affected the event itself.

So last week, we looked at the first of two points: Prophets and Plagues. This week, we’ll conclude by looking at Pharaoh and Passover.
_________________________

First, we’ll look at the Pharaoh who was the king of Egypt at the time. In God’s dealings with Pharaoh we have a demonstration of who runs the earth. Pharaoh thought for certain that it was himself. So he continued time and time again to stand up against the Lord and refused to alter his position.

But you see, Pharaoh was not working alone and he was not only protecting his interests. Pharaoh was working for the enemy doing all he could to snuff out the Lord’s people in order that the enemy might snuff out the Lord’s plans. This is a strange man who sacrificed the lot of his own people because of his stubborn refusal to let Israel go. What we learn is that the gods we set up always betray us in the end. They are only concerned about their own self-interests.

But I wonder: At the outset, we were told that God would make Moses like God to pharaoh and Aaron would be his prophet. So if YHWH was able to make Moses appear this way in Pharaoh’s presence, where did Pharaoh’s strength to resist the Lord come from? Was Pharaoh being played by his ‘gods’? “This is a section that focuses sharply on the conflict between heaven and earth, issuing in the same lesson which, in later years, Nebudchadnezzar had to learn the hard way.” You might recall from my sermon series on Daniel last year:

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

Simply put, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. I suspect that even now we have this strange misconception that we are the ones running the earth and putting up the show. Pharaoh learned this lesson in a terribly difficult way.  We see here that God takes back what is his by demolishing all that is not. He said, “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.”

____________________

Finally, we have the Passover. In the Passover event we see that God made a distinction between who belongs to God and who does not. He said, “But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will Know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

It’s not everyone who was saved. The Egyptians suffered. Mightily. But the bottom line is this: It was only those who were under the protection of blood who were saved. If an Israelite did not paint his door with blood and keep everyone inside, he would have suffered loss. If an Egyptian had covered his door with blood and stayed inside, he would have been saved. It wasn’t just being a part of Israel that saved them, it was being under the blood that made them distinct. He didn’t say, “When I notice you are an Israelite I will pass over you.” He said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” I suppose we might justifiably say that anyone who came under the blood would have been safe.

One writer noted, “Ever since the fourth plague, the people of Israel had been set apart from the Egyptians, but in each case it was the onset of the plague itself that made their distinct status evident.” (Motyer, 126) The Israelites were special people whom God protected. Motyer goes on, “What we can say with certainty is that by the wonder of divine mercy they were the Lord’s people, the subjects of his saving activity, the people destined for deliverance and, in the meantime, in a world under his just and awesome judgment, they were a people set apart, the objects of his loving, protective care.” (123)

God did not allow his people, his special people, his chosen people, his unique people to be washed under the flood or swept under the rug or destroyed by the rebellion of humans. In the Passover God made a distinction and demonstrated in a mighty way that his judgment is just. He made a distinction and demonstrated that he will not allow anyone in heaven or earth or under the earth to destroy his people or the purposes he has planned for them. He demonstrates that he is able to protect those he loves.

It should give us great comfort; great strength; great courage. God demonstrates that he is able to protect his own. The gods of Pharaoh cannot say the same. So I don’t know why people blame God for this episode. We want this contest don’t we? We want to see whose god reigns, whose god is supreme, whose god has the power? I don’t know why people blame god for so much death when people are given every opportunity to come under his protection.

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13″I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

God himself provided the protection for his people. Even now, as then.
__________________________

We have examined four aspects of the Exodus narratives.

So in the Prophets we have a discovery of who speaks for God.

In the Plagues we have a declaration of who is God.

In the Pharaoh we have a demonstration of who runs the Earth.

And in the Passover we see a distinction between those who belong to God and those who do not.

But it is my contention that we are learning more here than just a mere history of the ancient Israelites and Egyptians. My contention is that we are learning something here about God’s dealings with humans and God’s ability and design to preserve the people he has called into being.

The battle here was that Egypt’s intent was to keep God’s people enslaved and thus prevent God from fulfilling his promise to bring them into the Land.

If the events that took place leading up to the Exodus, the plagues, the confrontations between Moses and Pharaoh, were designed so that God might show his power and his name be declared in all the earth (9:16), then can their repetition in this book serve any less purpose to us? We too are meant to know God. We are meant to know the God who makes himself known even if today we only read about these events we see God who triumphs over the gods we have erected. He says: Go ahead and trust in your gods. Go ahead and put your faith in the gods your hands manufacture. He doesn’t deny us that much.  But we should not be surprised, either, when the True God wages war against those gods; neither when we suffer casualties and death because we have not chosen wisely.

The same event is happening, I believe, even today. God desires to be known and has made himself known. And he is redeeming his people from slavery all around the world. God’s people, however unknown to us, but known to him, are slaves all around the world and God is in the process of setting them free-overcoming the powers that hold them captive and setting them free by the Son: If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

But it seems that there is also the same result for those who refuse to know God. He still makes himself known, but now through Jesus; and the results are the same: some will be saved, some will not:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

He is gathering his people from among the nations. He is setting them free through Jesus. He is creating, Peter wrote, a ‘chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness and into his wonderful light.’

But we only get there through Jesus. Jesus is our message. Jesus we proclaim. When Jesus is lifted up will he draw all people unto himself. We have only one message of hope and deliverence for God’s people: Look to Jesus. Be free in Christ. He is our Exodus.

Friends,

I couldn’t resist.

jerry