Eat This Book

Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book inspired — of course — the title and some of the content in the following two sermons. There is more in the series that we’ll be posting at www.garnettchurch.org.

Eat This Book 1

 

Eat This Book 2

A Little Exercise for Young Theologians

by Helmut Thielicke

Helmut Thielicke.

Thielicke says some have “theologian’s disease” and use truth not to build their congregations by instruction but to tear them down.  Destroying a church in this way is the “starkest possible contrast with love,” Thielicke writes.  (31)

Thielicke says the greatest danger of knowledge about God is that you may lose sight of the Almighty in the process.

Says the first germ that causes theologians to catch this disease that infects congregations is when a minister no longer treats Holy Scripture as a means to come near to God but only as an end in itself of “exegetical endeavors.” Continue reading

Does God Speak Audibly to People Today Like He is Portrayed Doing in Bible Times?

In this second blog post that’s part 2 after a review I did of Bill Hybel’s The Power of a Whisper, I clarified some the title. The part 1 blog title was, “Does God Speak?” When I read it again, I thought, of course He does. He speaks anytime He wants, and has throughout time.

Foster Bible Pictures 0060-1 Moses Sees a Fire...

Foster Bible Pictures 0060-1 Moses Sees a Fire Burning in a Bush (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The clarified question is, “Does God continue to speak audibly to people today like He is portrayed doing in the Bible?”

First, let’s review how God speaks in Bible times:

  1. Through messengers called Angels (to many)
  2. Through donkeys (to Balaam)
  3. Like a friend (to Moses)
  4. Through tablets (10 Commandments)
  5. By burning stuff (burning bush, pillar of fire showing presence, burning up wet sacrifices – Elijah)
  6. Through dreams (Joseph, Daniel, kings, prophets)
  7. Whispers (Elijah)
  8. By tricks or tests of God (Gideon – was his fleece test appropriate as a test of God?)
  9. Direct voice (to Moses, many prophets)
  10. Prophets themselves as messengers
  11. Through incarnate Son Jesus
  12. Through written texts of Law, Prophets, Gospels, Letters, and Apocalypse
  13. Through the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire causing Apostles to speak intelligible languages spoken in first century world
  14. Through blinding light and vision of the Son (to Saul later named Paul)
  15. Through visions called Apocalypses (to Daniel, John)
  16. Apostles thought God speaks by casting lots or drawing straws for decisions

Have I left some examples out? I’m sure I have. Comment and write your examples from Scripture, citing who and the situation. Continue reading

Reading the Times

For a long time I’ve been a “reader of the Times.” Yes, I read the NY Times occasionally, but I’m talking about another reading of the times. There’s a manner of speaking that we “read the times” by staying aware of the news and what God is doing in the world. I do that occasionally, too. But I’m talking about another way of reading the times.

The kind of reading the times I’m talking about is that I use the date as a guide for Bible reading, using the number to correspond and direct my reading. In this way I respond to the invitation of God to listen to His voice through the Word daily and regularly in a way that keeps me moving through His story over and over.

There are hundreds of methods of Bible reading, but this one I keep coming back to. It goes something like this:

Today is August 15.

I divide the Psalms by 30 days to read five psalms a day. Lots of people do this, it’s nothing new, but doing it, memorizing, reflecting, praying these Scriptures is tried and true and the most ancient of spiritual practices of Israel and the church. It’s a tried and true method, but it’s only true when tried.

I try to read an Old Testament book daily and a New Testament book daily. There are 39 OT books and 27 NT books, so basically I use the day to pick a book.

So on August 15, I would read Psalms 71-75, Ezra, and 1 Timothy. I don’t worry if I missed yesterday, because yesterday’s book will come around again next month and the month after that.

You may wonder if I read straight through the Chronicles, running my eyes over all the name lists. No. I skim those and read for the story, stopping at places, making notes, enjoying a prayer of David or a song of Moses.

This kind of reading has nothing and everything to do with the reading I do for preaching. It has nothing and everything to do with the way I live my life. It has nothing and everything to do with what’s going to happen in my day. It has nothing and everything to do with what happened in Egypt yesterday. It has nothing and everything to do with politics. It has nothing and everything to do with how I treat my neighbor. This kind of reading has nothing and everything to do with how I relate to my wife and children, my co-workers.

When I read these books tied to a date, the only thing that matters is that I’m reading Holy Scripture and Holy Scripture when read, matters. It doesn’t have to be crammed into relevance in my life. What I learn when I read Holy Scripture is that my life is not what matters, and that my life truly matters.

In reading Holy Scripture, I learn that my life is consumed in the life of God. I learn that God’s story must become my story, that my story is a drop in the ocean. I learn that I am a bucket (I use this to mean vessel but it’s a little easier for us to picture today) that may contain God but realizes containing God is impossible, that God exists and is experienced outside of me infinitely, and I am learning to enjoy that, to desire to get my bucket in the ocean to float, sink, be surrounded by God and not “merely” inviting Him into my life. God invites me into His life.

God invites you into His life. Repeatedly, He said, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Then in Christ incarnate He came to make that invitation personal to a bunch of fishermen. Come, follow me.

DEUTERONOMISTIC POETRY

English: Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deu...

English: Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deuteronomy 6:1-15, Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chances are, even if you are a Christian who has read the Bible, you haven’t read this beautiful text from Deuteronomy 4:32-40. This is one I memorize from time to time (meaning, all the poetry doesn’t always stick in my brain so I have to re-memorize it). One reason you may not have read it is because it comes right after Israel wipes out the population of conquered lands. We don’t always know what to do with those texts, but it’s important to me that we don’t gloss over those particular contexts when we quote “beautiful” poetry from the Bible. We have to take the difficult texts with the cross-stitchable ones.

Deuteronomy is the catechesis of Israel’s young who are being trained to possess a new land and be a people for God. Moses repeats their story going back to Abraham, particularly the Exodus, gives the 10 Commandments and many other stipulations of being God’s holy people.

The following comes from the New International Version, which titles this section, “The Lord is God.”

“Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.”

Then God said, “That’s enough. Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.”

I found this a profound, fascinating story about Moses pleading with God to allow him to cross over and see “the good land beyond the Jordan [River]–that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

This is from NIV (3:21-29):

At that time I pleaded with the Lord: “Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

English: Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afa...

English: Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar, as in Numbers 27:12, by James Tissot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” So we stayed in the valley near Beth Peor.”

What a moment it is when God says, “That is enough. Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.” God relented to let Moses see what he would be missing, but He did not change His mind over this particular matter with Moses.

Supplicants and Benefactors

A page from Leviticus, in the Samaritan bible

A page from Leviticus, in the Samaritan bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you live your life as a supplicant, benefactor, or neither one?

This brings to mind the phrase, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Quick question. Is that a quote from the Bible. Ten seconds to answer. Sure, you can look it up on your phone or computer . . . but you won’t find it in a concordance, unless it’s a concordance of Shakespeare phrases. It’s Hamlet.

The Bible does say much about the relationship between the haves and have nots, the rich and the poor, benefactors and supplicants. A good place to start thinking biblically about these relationships is in Leviticus. That’s one of the first books that lays out these relationships for the community of Israel.

A text that tells us ‘Certain Great Things’

New Testament Professor William Barclay (1907-1978)

The following is a mash up of something William Barclay wrote, quoting mostly verbatim from a certain commentary about a Bible text that “tells us certain great things.” Can you read the clues from Barclay and guess the Bible text? In the process, I think we all might unlearn some things we thought about this text or God, and lean into a new relationship with God through deeper understanding of this text.

Comment with the Bible book and verse you think Barclay is referring to.

  1. This has been called ‘everybody’s text’ . . . the text tells us certain great things . . .
  2. This text tells us that initiative in salvation starts with God . . . It was God who sent His Son, and he sent him because He loved the world He had created. At the back of everything is the love of God.
  3. Sometimes Christianity is presented in such a way that it sounds as if God had to be pacified, as if he had to be persuaded to forgive. Sometimes the picture is drawn of a stern, angry, unforgiving God and a gentle, loving, forgiving Jesus.
  4. Sometimes the Christian message is presented in such a way that is sounds as if Jesus did something which changed the attitude of God to men and women from condemnation to forgiveness.
  5. It tells us that the mainspring of God’s being is love. . . . It is easy to think of God as seeking human allegiance in order to satisfy his own desire for power [or glory] and for what we might call a completely subjective universe.
  6. The tremendous thing about this text is that is shows us God acting not for his own sake but for ours; not to satisfy his desire for power, not to bring a universe to heel, but to satisfy His love. . . .
  7. God is the Father who cannot be happy until his wandering children have come home. God does not smash people into submission; He yearns over them and woos them into love.
  8. It tells us of the width of the love of God. It was the world that God so loved. It was not a nation; it was not the good people; it was not only the people who loved Him; it was the world.

Comment with the Bible book and verse you think Barclay is referring to and a brief new way you see God in this text.

A Woman Disciple?

Gheorghe Tattarescu - Magdalena,

Gheorghe Tattarescu – Magdalena, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Received this question from a member of our church today about last night’s The Bible series segment (March 24).

Greg,

We watched the Bible last night. (My husband and I) were discussing Mary with the disciples. I can’t remember that. What passages in the Bible could I find that? (BTW, It was a great day on Sunday!!!)

Great question! I would say that not only were there women traveling with the disciples, but The Bible series didn’t portray enough of the women! There were actually several. Luke 8:1-3.

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” (Source: Biblegateway, NIV)
 
Pretty cool what we learn along the way! Let me know if there are any other questions.

How to be good at preaching

Cover of "Countdown to Sunday: A Daily Gu...

Chris Erdman's Countdown to Sunday is not a book that is incredibly attractive by looking at the cover, looks gimmicky, and the excellent content does not match the airport time-management self-help looking cover. So if you are a preacher or aspiring to be one and you've seen Erdman's book, and written it off, pick it up. You'll be glad you did.

I like Chris Erdman’s surprisingly good book, Countdown to Sunday. The chapters are short, reflective, punchy, practical, and sock you in the gut when you are not least expecting it.

Today this encourages me:

Here’s why trying to be good or thinking you are good is no good for the preacher. When you’re trying to be good, you spin off mental and spiritual energy that you need to rightly handle the Word. You split your energies between preaching the Word and evaluating how you’re doing at preaching. When you’re preaching you must inhabit the moment as fully as possible. You cannot afford to split yourself. When you do, something becomes false, rings hollow . . . When you try to be good, you are not good. You may be good in that veneer sense of being good that tricks only the undiscerning, but your drive to be good means that your gifts and personhood (which are part and parcel of the way God wills to reveal the Word in our world) get all gummed up–they can’t work well at all because you are constantly worrying and evaluating and fretting, instead of living free, released to live in this moment, just this moment, asking only, “Lord, what’

Day of War

Day of War. Cliff Graham. Zondervan, $14.99 softcover (368p) ISBN 9780310331834

Army veteran and chaplain draws from deep research and experience in war to write one of the most fascinating yet under-documented stories in the Bible. Based on the exploits of the renegade band of “Mighty Men” of King David, this war novel has additional dimensions that make it unique for Christian fiction.

Descriptive of life in ancient near east and provides the history buff a biblically-based story that is not preachy but is actually quite gruesome: the exploits of a rag-tag band of men from different countries serving a soon-to-be-king.

Readers patient enough to plow through lengthy and repeated descriptions of setting and weather can find dozens of characters that help to paint a rare picture of life three millennia ago. Most of the story is from the perspective of Beniah, one of David’s Mighty Men, who fend off King Saul and helped David take his rightful throne. About Saul, who is losing his throne: “There was a breeze, a footstep, and the fire flickered again. And Saul knew he was alone . . . They found their king lying on his face, weeping.”

Otherwise provocative transitions are awkward. “Then it all changed earlier that evening.” Gets into the minds of people from nations surrounding Israel. An Egyptian muses, “Why would a man choose to follow only one god when there were so many other areas of life where he required their services?”

For what it lacks in a compelling tension and discernible quest of individual characters, it more than makes up for in developing characters longing for their homeland and seeking power in the textured ancient world setting. –Reviewed by Greg Taylor