Friday, November 28, 2008
Peter Mead on preaching biblical narratives: " . . . when you are preaching a Bible story, tell the story! Don’t just dissect it, label it, apply it, etc., but fail to tell it. Stories are powerful, so let them loose on your listeners."
One of the most pleasant surprises in the search for good, free, online commentaries has been the works of John Schultz, an Alliance missionary to Indonesia. Mr. Schultz's commentaries are available for more than 40 books of the Bible. The ones I've looked at have been exceptionally rich with insights. The files themselves are in .pdf format, and each file's size is listed on the index and download page.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Glenn Reynolds describes my own feelings about today's celebration of Thanksgiving:
I like Thanksgiving; when I was a kid it seemed like a pale imitation of Christmas, without all the presents. Now it seems like a purer version of Christmas, where the focus is on family instead of . . . all the presents.Indeed. We thank you, Oh God.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
My friend Bob, along with his son Nate, wonders about the sin of editing Jesus:
Why do we never hear the word "repent" in our churches? Why is sin not spoken of as the fundamental dilemma in all our lives, the dilemma from which the cross alone saves? Thus, lacking a robust understanding of the sin-problem, the cross itself only merits an occasional mention. I know scads of Christians who will go on ad nauseum (every single Easter) about Mel Gibson's whipping post scene, but who shy from all discussion of the cross as their fundamental need now. This moment. Every moment.As Bob reminds us, Jesus' message was often "Repent!"
For these folks, the church experience is simply a happy get together of wonderfully nice people, where they remind themselves that God is very very pleased with them. In their small groups they talk about how to be a success, or how to be a leader, or how to romance their spouses. They quote their favorite "encouraging" Scriptures back and forth to each other and tell themselves they're doing ministry if they wear a Christian t-shirt or something.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Matt Dirks makes a very simple connection between suffering and worship of the one true God.
In the process of scouring the Net for good free online Bible commentaries, I've come across these: EasyEnglish Bible Commentary. These commentaries are published online by Wycliffe Associates UK and are written with non-native English readers in mind. Most Bible books, including all the NT, are available for download in dialup-friendly .rtf format.
Monday, November 24, 2008
J.D. Hatfield reminds Christians that, even though we may try to fool ourselves into believing we can be Christians without the church, there's really no such thing as a one man army:
The only one-man army that will ever have victory is Jesus Christ. Are you behind Him in the barracks with the rest of us, or are you out cavorting with the Enemy? It is one or the other.Amen.
Friday, November 21, 2008
This is probably the best one-paragraph description I've seen about Christians, idolatry, and the recent U.S. presidential election.
Do you grumble against Christ's bride? If so, then consider these words from Justin Childers:
It really is the height of idiocy to think that church is about me and my needs and my family and my satisfaction. It completely overturns the teaching of the Bible—that church is about God and Christ and loving other people. In fact, if we wanted to summarize Paul's rebuke to the dysfunctional Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11-14, a pretty reasonable slogan would be “It's not about you, stupid!”Yep.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Christian, are you guilty of chasing the "x factor" of church success?
Glen Scrivener offers three helpful reminders for interpreting tricky verses. Here's the ost important:
The Bible is about JesusThe other two reminders are well worth remembering, too.
The Bible is not about morality or religion or politics or psychology or history or philosophy. And if you see the bible as primarily a source book for these things you will twist it from its true intention. Jesus says the Bible is about Him.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Jared Wilson has posted a Manifesto for Kingdom Militancy. Here's a sample:
We are legalists (for that is what you call someone who does not preach the gospel but insists on Christian behaviorism, even if it's framed as applying the Bible to six steps toward happiness at work), and we are self-idolaters (for that is what you call someone who cares more about having their own needs met than about meeting the needs of others). . . .Amen.
Crucify the idols of self and comfort and convenience and relevance, and give yourself away.
Monday, November 17, 2008
"When you enter a room with others (i.e. church on Sundays), who is the least important person in the room? The answer should always be the same no matter who else is present in that room."
Friday, November 14, 2008
Cal Habig: “The will to preach well is not most important; it is the will to prepare to preach.”
"Because these three remain in contemporary evangelicalism: aloofness, selfishness, and coolness, but the greatest of these is coolness."
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Jesus as a fundamentalist: John Frye makes an excellent point, although I like the other John's version much better.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
In the Clearing offers some good perspective on the empire and the Kingdom with reflections on what Obama's election reminds us about the two:
I recommend Bob's whole article, which draws on several other of my favorite bloggers.
The USA is not God's special focus, holding some sort of special status in his redemptive plan for creation. Top dogs always think they're special in God's eyes. Jesus said the first shall be last, overturning these standard worldly expectations, and that should at least cause us to wonder if all our struggling for power and influence is not a devilish cul de sac.Amen.
I recommend Bob's whole article, which draws on several other of my favorite bloggers.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Eddie Arthur, who blogs at Kouya Chronicle, recently shared this short essay on Bible translation:
The role of a Bible translator is to adapt Scripture in an appropriate fashion for a given cultural and linguistic setting. The translated text does not cease to be God’s word, though the form may change considerably. But through the process of translation, the Scriptures become more useful as a vehicle for God’s grace in the new situation: they are better fitted to the purpose for which God gave them.Amen. Well said.
It strikes me, that just as we can translate the Scriptures to make them more useful; so the Scriptures translate us with the same aim in mind. God has taken us from one kingdom to another, but we are constantly in need of transformation so that we reflect the context of the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, translates us into the language and culture of our new situation so that we are more useful and better fitted for the purpose God has for us. As God works in our lives, we remain ourselves, but we become more and more aligned to the culture of the Kingdom, and less aligned to the culture of the world around us.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Doug Floyd shares his thoughts on interpreting the Scriptures in the twenty-first century. Here's a sample:
. . .seeing the Bible through varying perspectives does not mean that I give into a sea of subjective waves. Rather, I can draw from the tools of the ancient church [realizing] that multiple perspectives can operate at the same time without canceling each other out. I can appreciate the narrative tools and rhetorical devices without denying the historical veracity of the stories. Both perspectives can teach me. This can begin helping me develop the Biblical skills I need to distinguish between subjective fluff and subjectively inspired revelation via an objective God who stands outside of my thoughts.That sounds right.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
"Is your community a community of performance or a community of grace?"
Peter Mead writes about the need for preaching all the courses:
When preaching we should be preaching a meal, even a feast of Bible that will nourish, strengthen and build up our listeners. The alternative that I come across all too often is preaching that seems to throw granules of sugar at people - very little content, very little value, very little lasting change. Let’s look to preach the Word and not just abuse the Word to preach some nice thoughts of our own.Amen.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
This little article offers a good dose of perspective for preachers: dealing with personal criticism.
Jared Wilson is on an idol hunt, and he's taking aim at the idol of comfort:
We make anxiety an idol when we are really not as concerned about knowing God's will as we are protecting our own comfort.Too true, I fear. You can read Jared's whole article here.
We really want to be comfortable. So when we agonize over some decisions, we're not really saying, "God tell me what you want me to do," we are really saying "God show me the route that will be easiest and happiest for me." But many times God's will is for us to be very uncomfortable, afflicted even. It's a mistake to assume that, for instance, if you go into business with your friend and the enterprise goes belly up and doesn't pan out that you obviously stepped out of God's will. It's a mistake to assume that if you go across the country to take that scholarship in order to be close to your boyfriend and then he dumps you that somehow this decision was out of God's will.
It is the mistake of assuming that Christians are not meant for difficulty or trouble, and that if they somehow enter that, they are outside of God's will or have made a mistake. This is based on a Christianity that promises comfort and ease, though, not the real Christianity of the Bible.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Barry Maxwell reflects on nationalism and fallenness:
In no way do I suggest America is the new Israel or the chosen people of God. I do suggest that America is no better than ancient Israel because Americans are no better than Adam. Old covenant, national Israel proved to be Adam’s sons in that, despite having every advantage of grace, they resorted to worshiping stuff rather than God. We learn that nations eventually become what they are because its citizens are idolaters.Amen. That's a long quote, but I strongly recommend reading Barry's whole article.
Perhaps America has had unique advantages of grace. God has “shed his grace on thee.” But despite every intention otherwise we’ve resorted to worshiping life (as long as its sexy and viable), liberty (as long as there are no strings attached) and the pursuit of happiness (as long it’s makes me feel good) rather than the God of eternal life, eternal liberty and eternal happiness. And we will soon go the way of very other “blessed” nation in history.
What is God’s answer to all the national failures? Will any people he’s blessed rightly remain faithful to and thankful for him? Enter the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is God’s chosen people and favored nation (1 Pt 2.9). We often confuse kingdom language with that of American patriotism so far that it’s hard to see a distinction between the two.
Mighty kingdoms will come and go. They always do. Hell will swallow up every earthly kingdom, but will not leave a scratch on the church (Mt 16.18). Whatever wounds hell inflicts on us here quickly fade forever into the eternal scars on the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.