Friday, February 27, 2009

David's Jack Bauer

2 Samuel 18:10-16
(10) And a certain man saw it and told Joab, "Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak."
(11) Joab said to the man who told him, "What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt."
(12) But the man said to Joab, "Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not reach out my hand against the king's son, for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, 'For my sake protect the young man Absalom.'
(13) On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof."
(14) Joab said, "I will not waste time like this with you." And he took three javelins in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the oak.
(15) And ten young men, Joab's armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him.
(16) Then Joab blew the trumpet, and the troops came back from pursuing Israel, for Joab restrained them.

I only watched one season of 24, but that was enough to understand how Jack Bauer works. Jack Bauer only asks a question politely once. The second time is often accompanied with a .50 cal slug in your thigh. He doesn't have time for niceties. He is all business and the mission governs all that he does.

Joab seems to have some of that. He frequently ignored the command of the king because he knew what was really necessary. In fact, as David mourns Absalom later Joab rebukes him:

2 Samuel 19:5-7
(5) Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, "You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines,
(6) because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.
(7) Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the LORD, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now."

The thing I've noticed throughout the narrative is that Joab often has a good point. What I wonder is the value of having a Joab in an organization. I work at a bank and we have to play by the rules. We have internal reasons for this as well as laws that dictate how we operate. Yet sometimes we need a Joab to break through all of the red tape and just get stuff done.

Where do you fall on this? I am not a Joab by nature, but I can be when it is necessary. Personally, I like to play by the rules. I think this is also why I am not cut out to be a church planter.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Biblical Parenting

2 Samuel 13:21-22
(21) When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry.
(22) But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had violated his sister Tamar.

These verses happen right after the account of Amnon raping Tamar. I think we tend to idealize David a little bit. After all, we know that he was a man after God's own heart, right? Nevertheless, his family was a wreck. Here we see that one of his sons raped one of his daughters. This made him angry, but he didn't do anything about it. Absalom eventually settled the matter and even then it took years for David and Absalom to reconcile. Shortly after the reconciliation Absalom plotted to usurp David's throne.

Our church is going multi-site and I met with our new campus pastor yesterday. One point I made is that I do not want my son to someday have a parole officer who calls him a "PK" (pastor's kid). He knew just what I meant. David serves as an example to me of how not to parent. I'm not sure what he was doing with his time, but it wasn't spent raising His kids according to Deuteronomy 6.

Men, do not take the way of passivity like David. You will either have to deal with problems now or later. Although it may seem tough, dealing with them sooner will be easier than dealing with them later. I've done it both ways and I can attest to this. Frankly, this is a reminder for me as well.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Parable Analysis

I published my analysis of the Parable of the Unjust (dishonest) Steward (manager) here. I haven't got a grade on it yet, so you can determine the quality for yourself.

Win a Free Calfskin ESV

A blog called Boomer in the Pew is giving away a free ESV Study Bible with a calfskin cover. Check out this entry for more information.

Working with Evil

2 Samuel 5:1-3
(1) Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, "Behold, we are your bone and flesh.
(2) In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, 'You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.'"
(3) So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel.

This comes right after two men killed one of Saul's heirs. They thought they were doing David a favor, but David had them both executed. However, I notice that he still took over Israel. Frankly, I don't think that there was anyone else known to take it over except Mephibosheth, who was unknown and lame as well.

I don't think there is anything particularly profound about this story other than it struck me how David still took over Israel despite the circumstances. He couldn't very well give it back to anyone, so it was his for the taking. Plus, the people wanted him to be the king. What's even more important is that God wanted for him to be the king.

It seems like there is much that could be written about God's sovereignty here. It also seems that there is much to think about regarding how we react when something evil happens. David seems to take the pragmatic approach here. I'm not sure if that is prescriptive or descriptive.

I'd appreciate any comments anyone would like to offer.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Value of History

Psalms 107:43
(43) Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

This Psalm and the few preceding it remind the reader about all the ways that the Lord has acted in faithfulness toward His people. This verse shows us the value in that. Remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. With that understanding it just makes sense that there should be a record of the faithfulness of the Lord. The people had much reason to praise Him and remember His steadfast love. This led to wisdom and encouragement.

When I think about His steadfast love toward me I can think of a litany of things. Just off the top of my head:
  • He saved me from my sin and redeemed me
  • He regenerated my heart and gave me a desire to live for Him
  • He brought Amanda into my life
  • He has met my physical needs
  • He blessed me with two beautiful children
I have no real wants. And what's more, all my true desires are fulfilled in Him. What an incredible love this is that I surely did not deserve!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Reason for Redemption

Psalms 105:43-45
(43) So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing.
(44) And he gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples' toil,
(45) that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the LORD!

Last night Lily and I went to the Winter Jam concert. There was a gospel presentation as there always was. And, as is often the case, it was a bit weak. It was not too far off from the invitation Lily had at church to "be Jesus' forever friend." Basically, the gospel was presented as a means to avoid damnation.

Obviously that is a big part of the reason to follow Jesus. However, that doesn't get to the root of why God redeems His people. He does it so that we might keep His statues and obey His laws. We are incapable of truly doing that apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit in our lives. He must redeem us so that we can follow Him. And then once we can follow Him we can glorify Him with our lives.

I believe it is vital to keep this in right order. Otherwise we start to think that Jesus' death on the cross was essentially focused on us when it is really about God and His glory.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Big Psalm of Praise

I read through Psalms 103 and 104 today. What I noticed is that they could easily be combined into one big Psalm. Check them out when you get a chance.

The convicting thing for me is that I don't always give God the credit and glory He deserves for all that He has done and continues to do. These Psalms will help you get recentered in that way of thinking if you need it. I know that I often do.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why So Serious?

I just took a few minutes to click the "fcb" label in the tag cloud to the right. It was a fun walk down memory lane as I remember the past few years at the Bank. There are two recurring themes that still hold true today:
  • I don't enjoy it very much
  • I'm glad for a job in this market
I'll get back to posting something more devotional tomorrow. In the meantime, please pray for my NT professor and his family. They just suffered a loss and could use the prayer.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Being His Righteousness

2 Corinthians 5:16-21
(16) From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
(17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
(18) All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
(19) that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
(20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
(21) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This passage is so pregnant with meaning and application that a short blog post can't really do it justice. One theme of it is that we are new creations. Think about what that means for a minute. Psychologists would tell us that we are bound to our pasts. Of course the past does shape us, but it does not have to determine how we live today if we are in Christ. No, we are new creations. I may be wrong, but when I read that I take it to mean that we are fundamentally different.

When I went to college I really wanted to erase the baggage of my social status in high school. I was a geek and everyone knew it. Spaz may be an even better word to describe me. When I got to college I basically just wanted to find a girl and start having sex. I kind of did that when I was a freshman, but we broke up just as we started our sophomore year. My desire for hooking up was basically written across my forehead and I don't think the girls in my classes were impressed.

Then I got out on my own and I tried to erase that past. I never managed to find anyone to date until I met Amanda. Our dating, engagement, and marriage make for more stories, but suffice it to say that my base motives hadn't changed much.

Now they have. Christ set me free from bondage to pornography and self-gratification. He set me free from bondage to gluttony and laziness. I am a new creation in Him. My motives for living have changed. To be sure, there are still times when I live for myself, but overall I live with the goal of pleasing Him rather than myself.

Are you ready to die to yourself and live for Him? Are you ready to shed the baggage of the past? Come to the cross and repent of your self-sufficient ways and make Him the lord of your life instead. I guarantee that He will do a better job than you do.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Call to Him

Mark 10:46-52
(46) And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.
(47) And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
(48) And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
(49) And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart. Get up; he is calling you."
(50) And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
(51) And Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" And the blind man said to him, "Rabbi, let me recover my sight."
(52) And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

As far as I know, we have no consistent cure for blindness even in our day of advanced medicine. They certainly didn't have anything in first-century Palestine. Blind Bartimaeus knew that Jesus was his only hope. I find it interesting that he didn't start with, "Son of David, restore my sight!" He realized that Jesus first had to extend mercy to him if he was going to see. Jesus called him and then restored his sight.

Are you calling out to Jesus to remove the blindness in your heart? Are you calling to Him to make you well again in your soul? If not, cry out for His mercy and He will call you. Then your faith will make you well from the inside-out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Word for the Nations

Psalms 96:7-10
(7) Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
(8) Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!
(9) Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
(10) Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity."

As a believer who is pained by this fallen world, this Psalm brings me great hope. Everyone is commanded to give glory to the Lord. Everyone is commanded to tremble before Him. Our message to the world is that the Lord made the earth and He alone deserves our worship. The end of verse 10 also gives me hope to resolve the problem of evil.

What I'm afraid of is that the same promise gives people false hope. It is easy to read that "He will judge the peoples with equity" and think that applies to someone else. However, if you are not clothed in Christ's righteousness I guarantee that you do not want to be judged by the Lord. You are not in right standing with Him and you will be found wanting if He does judge with equity. The only solution for this is the cross of Christ. That is where His perfect justice was satisfied against the judgment we all deserve.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The God I Worship

Psalms 93:1-5
(1) The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
(2) Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.
(3) The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.
(4) Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!
(5) Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.

I love the short Psalms. I love how succinctly this one paints a picture of God's greatness and glory. Verse 4 takes me back to my last trip to the ocean. I remember how angry the sea looked before, during, and after a storm. Yet God is greater than all of that.

And if we ever start to lose faith in God's Word we have verse 5. I realize that the argument is a bit circular, but this verse reminds me of the great value of it. I think this old hymn puts it best:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

What more can He say? Obviously this is rhetorical. His excellent Word is plenty.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why So Indignant?

Judges 19:29-30
(29) And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.
(30) And all who saw it said, "Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak."

Why did this upset the people of Israel? We have seen throughout the book of Judges that they were doing whatever they wanted to do. The repeated refrain is "In those days, when there was no king in Israel" and sometimes "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" gets added on. Why did they care?

This reminds me of the recent Michael Phelps "scandal" with him hitting a bong at a party. Why do we care? After all, we have now elected two presidents who admitted to using illegal drugs while in college. A fair number of Americans have tried illegal drugs. Many more flagrantly abuse legal ones such as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Many of those claim to be Christians. Why the indignation?

The people of Israel had the Torah and they knew how they were supposed to live. Yet they consciously chose not to do that. I think that something like the Levite and his concubine or our gold medal winning hero smoking pot reminds us of where our moral bearings should be. It forces a degree of introspection. Rather than dealing with our inherent hypocrisy and selfishness we decry these acts in others.

That's just my theory though. I would appreciate comments on this as I'd like to see what others think.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Simple, Steady Faith

Mark 7:24-30
(24) And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.
(25) But immediately a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet.
(26) Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
(27) And he said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."
(28) But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
(29) And he said to her, "For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter."
(30) And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

As I read this today I was struck by this woman's faith. I think that's the point of including this in the story after all. She had a deep faith in Jesus that led to her daughter's healing. What really hit me today was that she had no reason to have this faith in Him except by His reputation. She knew about Him and knew that to heal her daughter would be something He could and possibly would do.

There was a huge problem though. She was a Gentile and Jesus made it clear that His first priority was His people the Jews. She was happy with just a "crumb" from Jesus as she knew that would bring healing to her daughter.

Unlike this woman we who call ourselves Christ-followers have been grafted in to the olive tree. Though we were like her and would have had to settle for mere crumbs, now we are children of God and we can enjoy the benefits of eating at the table. So, given that, how strong is our faith in Jesus? She had every reason to believe that He wouldn't heal her daughter, but she was bold and asked Him. We have every reason to believe that He will work in our lives, but are we even as confident as her to ask? I know that I'm not.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Saving Faith

Mark 7:5-8
(5) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?"
(6) And he said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
(7) in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'
(8) You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men."

I think it's easy for us to read this passage and look down on the Pharisees. After all, we're on this side of the cross and much more enlightened than them, right? We don't keep all those crazy laws which have no power to save, do we?

Or do we? Do we count on our abstinence from alcohol to save us? Do we count on not smoking to save us? Do we count on not watching the wrong movies to save us? Do we count on regular church attendance to save us? Do we count on sacrament-keeping to save us?

On the other hand, do we count on our abandonment of tradition to save us? Do we count on our enlightened attitude about what is allowed to save us?

I've been guilty on both sides of this. I certainly am today in some way or another. This is why I count on Christ to save me. I can't count on anything I do or don't do, but I can count on what He did. I hope that you do the same.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Means of Grace

Judges 9:55-57
(55) And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home.
(56) Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.
(57) And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

This concludes the sad story of Abimelech. He was one of Gideon's sons, but was so power-hungry that he murdered 70 of his brothers so that he could take the throne. The only one to escape was Jotham. Earlier in this passage Jotham pronounced a curse on Shechem:

Judges 9:20-24
(20) But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech."
(21) And Jotham ran away and fled and went to Beer and lived there, because of Abimelech his brother.
(22) Abimelech ruled over Israel three years.
(23) And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,
(24) that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.

What ends up happening? Abimelech kills everyone in Shechem, but Abimelech eventually is killed by a woman throwing a millstone down from a tower.

My point in mentioning this passage is to show how God works sometimes. I think we naturally want to separate our stories into good guys and bad guys. Here there really aren't any good guys. Yet God used even the bad guys to accomplish His will.

I know I tend to root for Israel and then Judah as I read through the history of Israel. However, none of the groups are particularly good. The only one who is really good is Jesus, and He is the point of the whole Old Testament (or "gospel according to the prophets" if you prefer). These stories of Israel in the time of the Judges show me just how wicked we all are at heart and how badly we need Jesus.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It Has to be God

Judges 7:1-7
(1) Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
(2) The LORD said to Gideon, "The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'
(3) Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, 'Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.'" Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.
(4) And the LORD said to Gideon, "The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, 'This one shall go with you,' shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, 'This one shall not go with you,' shall not go."
(5) So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, "Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink."
(6) And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water.
(7) And the LORD said to Gideon, "With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home."

I know that normally I try to find something more esoteric to post, but this passage goes along with what we discussed yesterday in my small group. We were talking about the Holy Spirit and how we should undertake projects that require His intervention to be successful. In other words, God gets no glory if we could have done something on our own.

The story of Gideon reflects this too. God could have let the Israelite army remain at 32,000 and they certainly would have defeated Midian. However, because of the zeal He has for His glory He reduced the army to 300. He is the one who clearly defeated Midian, though Gideon did have to be faithful.

This story of course also gives us an example of how a man with weak faith was able to do great things for God. However, I also think we need to be careful about using Gideon as a prescriptive example. I don't think it honors God to "put out a fleece" or demand other signs. He gave us what we need in His Word. That should be enough. It sometimes isn't for me, but it certainly should be. His faithfulness is clearly great. Let's remember that as we try to do great things for Him.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Getting Answers

Joshua 22:10-20
(10) And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size.
(11) And the people of Israel heard it said, "Behold, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built the altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the people of Israel."
(12) And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them.
(13) Then the people of Israel sent to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest,
(14) and with him ten chiefs, one from each of the tribal families of Israel, every one of them the head of a family among the clans of Israel.
(15) And they came to the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, and they said to them,
(16) "Thus says the whole congregation of the LORD, 'What is this breach of faith that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away this day from following the LORD by building yourselves an altar this day in rebellion against the LORD?
(17) Have we not had enough of the sin at Peor from which even yet we have not cleansed ourselves, and for which there came a plague upon the congregation of the LORD,
(18) that you too must turn away this day from following the LORD? And if you too rebel against the LORD today then tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel.
(19) But now, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the LORD's land where the LORD's tabernacle stands, and take for yourselves a possession among us. Only do not rebel against the LORD or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the LORD our God.
(20) Did not Achan the son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity.'"

This makes me think of the big brouhaha that goes around the Internet regarding Mark Driscoll. People hear bits and pieces of what goes on from his pulpit and they freak out. Verse 12 in this passage shows us that the people were ready to go to war against their brothers over this altar. This was good if their suspicions were correct. God made it very clear that there was a specific way for them to worship and if they were breaking that then there had to be consequences.

However, before they started swinging swords they asked questions. They got the facts. The passage continues:

Joshua 22:21-31
(21) Then the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh said in answer to the heads of the families of Israel,
(22) "The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the LORD, do not spare us today
(23) for building an altar to turn away from following the LORD. Or if we did so to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings on it, may the LORD himself take vengeance.
(24) No, but we did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, 'What have you to do with the LORD, the God of Israel?
(25) For the LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you people of Reuben and people of Gad. You have no portion in the LORD.' So your children might make our children cease to worship the LORD.
(26) Therefore we said, 'Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice,
(27) but to be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we do perform the service of the LORD in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings, so your children will not say to our children in time to come, "You have no portion in the LORD."'
(28) And we thought, If this should be said to us or to our descendants in time to come, we should say, 'Behold, the copy of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you.'
(29) Far be it from us that we should rebel against the LORD and turn away this day from following the LORD by building an altar for burnt offering, grain offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle!"
(30) When Phinehas the priest and the chiefs of the congregation, the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh spoke, it was good in their eyes.
(31) And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh, "Today we know that the LORD is in our midst, because you have not committed this breach of faith against the LORD. Now you have delivered the people of Israel from the hand of the LORD."

Amanda thought I was crazy for wanting to name a son Phineas, but this is one more example of why it is such a good name. Phineas listened to reason. He heard why the Reubenites and Gadites built the altar he was satisfied. He took them at their word and let it go. Oh that we should have such measured sense today in Christendom! Of course, Proverbs puts this more succinctly than I can:

Proverbs 18:13-17
(13) If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
(14) A man's spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
(15) An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
(16) A man's gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.
(17) The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

20/20 Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the 20/20 Conference at Southeastern. It started Friday evening and went on all day yesterday. The highlight was definitely hearing Mark Driscoll speak twice. C.J. Mahaney's talk was excellent as well. The fourth plenary was with Bill Brown, who is the president of Cedarville University. The last was from Danny Akin who is the president of Southeastern. His was OK, but not nearly as good as the first four. Then again, being the anchor is tough.

I attended a few good breakout sessions as well. Here are some things I gleaned from them:

  • The Bible is about Jesus. It is not about you nor is it really about the history of Israel.
  • There is a "grand inclusio" in the Bible. Note the setting of Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22.
  • We can make a biblical case for a limited government whose primary job is to protect us from criminals both within and without. That should govern how we handle the political realm.
  • Churches should not be in the business of endorsing candidates.
  • When we read literature we should look for the truth and excellence in it. We are not necessarily bound by authorial intent. For example, we could use the Beatles' "Let It Be" to discuss God's sovereignty, though that is not what they intended. I'm still mulling this one over.
Driscoll's sessions were especially challenging and funny, as you might imagine. I'd say the most profound thing I took from the first is that politics reflects our culture. In other words, we don't want to use politics to change culture, but we need to affect culture as far upstream as possible to change our politics. There are only a few real culture-makers in society and those are the folks that need to hear the gospel. Of course, everyone needs to hear the gospel, but the point is that real societal change doesn't happen from a church with 3000 Joe Blows.

His other session was about worship. I've heard some of it before from other messages of his. It was all very good. We all have idols in our lives. A great way to identify them is to examine where you make sacrifices. For example, do you sacrifice going to church so you can play sports?

I look forward to next year's conference. I'm not sure if Amanda does though, since she had the kids. One thing I can say is that being there made me feel very, very old indeed.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Proper Imprecation

Psalms 74:10-11
(10) How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
(11) Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!

The first 9 verses of this Psalm detail how enemies have come and defiled the places of worship. Here we see the prayer for God to repay them for their wickedness. Notice the reason behind the prayer though. It's about God's holy name.

Maybe I'm too much of a John Piper fanboy, but every time I go through the Bible I am struck more and more by this theme. The holiness of God's name is vital, particularly in the Old Testament. That was the basis of the appeal Moses made to God as well. God was ready to wipe the people out, but Moses made the point that all the nations would scoff at God's inability to take care of His people. This stayed God's hand (though I don't think it changed His mind, but that's another blog).

The point is that we are here for God's glory. We are not here for ourselves and God is certainly not here for us. Now God can be greatly glorified in the blessings He chooses to give us, and we need to remember that as well. I think poverty theology is as bad as prosperity theology. It's jut not as popular because it's not as fun.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

What of the Unbeliever?

Psalms 73:16-20
(16) But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
(17) until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
(18) Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
(19) How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
(20) Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.

Here the Psalmist wrestles with the apparent prosperity of those who do not worship the Lord. How could their lots in life be so much better than his while he remained faithful? It was all confusing until he went into the sanctuary of God. It was then that he was able to get the right perspective. Their end is destruction, while the end for the believer is life.

It's easy to look around at the unbelievers in our culture and envy what they have. The beautiful and rich folks in Hollywood spring to mind as do many corporate executives. I tend to think of Hugh Hefner as the modern-day Solomon. All of these folks seem to have it made now. Yet in the end they are going to end up spending a very long time experiencing God's justice.

I realize that this is not the spin that the popular prosperity folks put on things today. However, I do think that this is the biblical spin. What's interesting is that I read this as well today:

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
(18) For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
(19) For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."
(20) Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
(21) For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
(22) For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
(23) but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
(24) but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
(25) For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

I think of this as being more directed toward those who think themselves too smart to believe in God. However, the folks I mentioned before functionally live as if they believe that. Most are either true, professing atheists or functional atheists. I want to be a professing and functional Christian.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Being Nouthetic

Romans 15:14
(14) I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

This was one of my memory verses in my counseling class last year. I take this as quite an encouragement for the nouthetic method. What Paul is saying here is that the people have the Holy Spirit and have been instructed in the Truth. Therefore, they can help one another grow. The word translated instruct here is "noutheo," which is where we get the term "nouthetic counseling."

Take heart you believers! Scripture is sufficient to help one another. Obviously we do need to handle it correctly, but we can trust that God is true to His Word. What gets me is that so many well-meaning teachers have a "defer and refer" approach to counseling. They think that the Bible is sufficient for everything except for issues of the mind. Our litigious society has helped with that too.

It seems to me that back in the day if someone had problems that person would talk to his minister, priest, or rabbi for advice. Now we feel like we have to go to a "professional." Of course, the counter-argument is that we don't go to the shaman for medical advice anymore. This is true. The big difference is that medicine is much more of a hard science. If someone has diabetes then insulin will help that. But if someone is depressed is the right answer to medicate?

I know that this is an old rant for those who are long-time readers of my blog. However, I also know that there are a lot of you who are anonymous, so I thought I'd bring it up again. I'd love to have interaction in the comments about this.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Being Carried

Psalms 68:19-20
(19) Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah.
(20) Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

Verse 19 is a great encouragement to me. The Lord carries me every day. That happens whether I realize it or not. I think of times when I carry Lily. If I'm taking her where she wants to go, it's a very easy and fun time. If I'm carrying her off to her room or downstairs for a spanking, it's not a lot of fun. I get her there, but neither one of us enjoys the experience much.

I want to walk in a way that is in concert with God. I want to be glad for wherever He is carrying me. I also appreciate the reassurance that this passage offers. I need to respect the attacks of the enemy, but I do not need to give in to them because I am carried by the Lord.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Prayer of the Penitent

Psalms 66:16-20
(16) Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
(17) I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue.
(18) If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
(19) But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
(20) Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!

That pretty much sums up my story and why I want to go into vocational ministry. It all starts with humble confession and a desire to lift God up above all else. He won't listen as long as we are merely sorry for the consequences. He wants our whole hearts. Fortunately, He gives us His Spirit to bring us to true godly sorrow.

God has done this for me as I found freedom from bondage to pornography, self-gratification, gluttony, and laziness. He will free you from any bondage. Will you forsake the iniquity in your heart and call out to Him in humble confession?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

God's Chosen People

Deuteronomy 9:4-6
(4) "Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, 'It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,' whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you.
(5) Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
(6) "Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.

Why did God give the land to Israel? He did it to keep the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is not because the people had any merit of their own. In fact, if you look this passage up you will see that immediately following it is the story of how they made the golden calf while Moses went up the mountain to get the Ten Commandments.

God chooses people and He does it for reasons that we don't necessarily understand. The overarching reason is that He does it because He has a plan. Ultimately, that is about His glory. What I found fascinating this morning is the way my morning reading all came together about election. I also read this:

Romans 11:1-6
(1) I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
(2) God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?
(3) "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life."
(4) But what is God's reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal."
(5) So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
(6) But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

It is God's grace that maintained a remnant. This seems to stand in contrast to some of the conventional ideas of libertarian free will. Somehow He kept a people for Himself that would not bow the knee to Baal. I also read this:

Psalms 65:1-4
(1) To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song. Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed.
(2) O you who hears prayer, to you shall all flesh come.
(3) When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.
(4) Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

This tells us that there is a blessing in being chosen and brought near. What these passages tell me is that as a believer I have been chosen by God. He did this for the glory of His name. I should enjoy this privilege, but I have nothing to boast about.