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Serious Worship (Psalm 113)

If the book of Psalms was the Hebrew prayer book and worship book, then we have much to learn about worship from the book of Psalms. And one of those lessons is that worship is serious business. Consider Psalm 113.

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 113:1-9)

The psalm starts out easy enough, encouraging the worshipper to praise the name of the Lord from this day into eternity. All day long, praise the name of the Lord. And if we did nothing in worship but repeat these words over and over, our worship would have a good beginning but would not journey on the path that the psalm writer intended. The psalm very soon demonstrates that to praise the name of the Lord is to wrestle with life through the eyes of God’s blessed name.

A few observations.

First, the psalm declares that the Lord is high above all nations. This statement means that God sits on a throne that is much greater than any earthly ruler. But more than that, His reign and rule is qualitative different than earthly rulers or the power of earthly nations. God is working out all of history towards His divinely appointed end, an end revealed in the New Testament which is to unite all things under the headship of Christ (see Ephesians 1.9-10). Not only is God more powerful than the nations, but He is orchestrating the nations to His end. Nations rise and fall at His bidding.

So far, so good. May the name of the Lord be praised. Continue reading “Serious Worship (Psalm 113)” »

Bolivian boy

The Nations: Bolivia

As our church prepares to send a mission team to Bolivia to work with Danny and Vanessa Beams, allow me to paint a picture of Bolivia.

The territory that we now know as Bolivia was been inhabited for thousands of years by the indigenous Indians. One ruin dates back as far as 1500 BC. The Inca Empire spread to control the territory beginning in 1438, and when the Spanish Empire conquered the Inca Empire in 1533, the Bolivian territory fell under their control, too. Bolivian silver was an important resource for the Spanish Empire, and they enslaved much of the population to mine it from the earth. After hundreds of years of Spanish colonial rule, the revolution against Spain began in 1809. Simon Bolivar was the political/military figure that led much of South America to gain its independence from Spain. Finally, after years of war, independence from Spain became a reality for Bolivia in 1825.

The rule of Bolivia was far from stable, with as many as 200 military coups taking place over the next 160 years. During these unstable times, Bolivia lost almost half of its territory to neighboring nations, mostly the resource rich portions. Finally, in 1982, the government stabilized with a democratically elected government that remains in place today. The current President, Evo Morales, is the first indigenous Bolivian president. Morales was elected under the political banner of “moving towards socialism” and returning the power of the nation to the indigenous people. However, by some standards, it is one of the most corrupt nations in all of South America.

The population of Bolivia is 60% indigenous peoples, commonly called Amerindians. The population is diverse, and the constitution recognizes 36 languages in addition to Spanish which is spoken by 88% of the population. Tin and natural gas are two significant natural resources. Life expectancy is 68 years, and the majority of the population has no access to health care.  Some rate Bolivia as the second poorest nation in the southern hemisphere, behind Haiti. Continue reading “The Nations: Bolivia” »

BN Shelf

Side By Side

My wife took this picture at our local Barnes and Nobles. Two worldviews side by side on the same shelf. One devoted to helping one person understand the other’s love language in order to better sacrificially love them. While I haven’t read the other book, judging by book summaries and reviews, it is a worldview about a relationship between two people who sign a contract agreeing to a sexual relationship without any romance, and a bondage/submission sexual relationship at that.

Two distinct worldviews about the role of sex in a relationship or whether or not a relationship is even required for sex. Two distinct worldviews about the nature of love and whether or not love is required for sex.

Which one do you think is selling more books?

This Week’s Memory Verse

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10 (ESV)

 

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Latest Sermon Series

i5 (Invite): The Power of a Personal Invitation

One effective tool in the ministry of reconciliation is to invite our friends to “come and see” Jesus by coming to church with us.

August 31, 2014

John 1.35-51

Sermon Series: i5: Evangelism for the Rest of Us

Video Link Coming Soon

accident

The Accident: A Book Review

I overlooked Chris Pavone’s first novel, The Expats, but I will certainly seek it out after reading his second novel, The AccidentThe Accident is a well written, well crafted novel with an unusual setting for an action thriller: the publishing industry. Without spoiling the plot, an “expose” type of book was written about a well known and powerful media mogul, and not only is the publishing world willing to kill to get its hand on it, but so is the CIA and others. The plot is filled with unexpected twists and turns, and has just enough complexity to it to keep the reader guessing.

Personally, I could have done without the graphic descriptions of several sexual encounters, though they were few and brief. And the obscene language was not necessary to the plot or book development.

If you are looking for a break from the typical police/murder mystery and spy novel genre but still want some intrigue and action, Pavone’s book might just scratch your itch.

(Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy by the publisher in exchange for a review but was not obligated to provide a positive review)

Why Are Unbelievers Unbelievers?

I know the question sounds like gibberish, but the core question is very important. Why does an unbeliever not believe in the name of Jesus? You might say, “Because they are an unbeliever,” but my question goes to the heart of what it means to be lost, what it means to be saved, and what it means to be involved in evangelism. What stands in the way to keep an unbeliever from becoming a believer?
For instance, we might suggest that one reason a person does not confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is because they have too many unanswered questions or intellectual difficulties with the gospel message. Perhaps they are not convinced in the existence of a divine being, or perhaps they question the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
Or it might be that they have a problem with the moral requirements of being a Christ follower. Perhaps they embrace our culture’s ethical standard of “everything is permissible as long as it doesn’t hurt another person,” and they cannot see why God would deem certain “victim-less crimes” as immoral. Continue reading “Why Are Unbelievers Unbelievers?” »

fishing trip 2014a

Fishing Buddies

fishing trip 2014b

Fishing With My Son

What a great day fishing with my son on Lake Texhoma!

success failure

Failure: The Unintended Consequence of Success (Judges 8.27)

The writer of Hebrews demonstrated faith in action by highlighting the life of faithful men and women throughout biblical history. The famous “faith hall of fame,” otherwise known as chapter 11, is full of great faith stories like Abraham and Moses. But it also includes a list of names, stories that the author didn’t have the time to tell. One of those un-expounded faith stories is the story of Gideon.

Gideon’s story is found in Judges 6-8. He was the unlikely man chosen by God to deliver Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Though he was the least in his father’s house, the angel of the Lord told him to “go in this might of yours and save Israel.” In faith, Gideon destroyed his own father’s altar to Baal. The Spirit of the lord clothed Gideon, he rallied Israel around him, and gathered for battle. He famously sought confirmation from the Lord through the fleece, twice. And he trusted in God’s plan, even though the Lord whittled his fighting force down to a paltry 300 men and gave him a battle plan about a silly as Joshua’s: torches, trumpets, and clay jars. But “through faith,” Gideon “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, and obtained promises” (see Hebrews 11.33). Continue reading “Failure: The Unintended Consequence of Success (Judges 8.27)” »

curmudgeons guide

Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Book Review

Charles Murray, author and social historian, has written several weighty works of great value. I have previously reviewed Coming Apart, a book about the changing culture in White America, and was looking forward to reading his latest release, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Do’s and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life.

The Curmudgeon’s Guide is certainly different than Coming Apart. The later is a social research book, the former is the collection of a life time of wisdom, wisdom summed up in 35 thoughts with short explanations. According to the dictionary, a curmudgeon is “an old man who is easily annoyed or angered and who often complains.” Murray defines a curmudgeon as “an ill tempered old man”  or as “a successful person who is inwardly grumpy about many aspects of contemporary culture.” But what could easily be dismissed as the rantings of the old man down the street who constantly tells the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn is tempered by this one key thought: “most large organizations in the private sector are run by curmudgeons” (15) like Murray, and they have the power to decide who gets promoted and who gets fired. So, like the sub-title suggests, if you want to get ahead in a world run by curmudgeons, then you need to learn the values of curmudgeons.

Much of Murray’s wisdom is very practical: stop using the world “like” in conversations, don’t get tattoos, dress properly, address people with terms of respect, learn how to write well, leave home, etc. Young people won’t like much of the wisdom, but that won’t change the basic premise of Murray’s work: curmudgeons are the ones who have worked hard and earned the positions of power in the places where most young people will end up working.

It is an easy read, entertaining, and makes a great graduation gift book. Unfortunately, it will probably be left un-read by the non-curmudgeons, but that will be to thier own demise. Don’t blame the curmudgeons; they told you so.

Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher at no cost in exchange for a review. I was not obligated to provide a positive review.

 

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Faith Based Fanatics: A Response to Timothy Egan

I’ve never heard of Timothy Egan, but then again, he’s never heard of me either.

Mr. Egan is an author and journalist who lives in Seattle. He has authored six books, his most well known probably being about the Great Depression: The Worst Hard Time (2006). He has won several awards for his writing, and he contributes to the Opinion section of the New York Times.

On July 18, 2014, his recent Op-Ed piece, entitled “Faith Based Fanatics,” appeared in the Opinion Pages of the NYT. As a man of faith, and probably what Egan would call a “faith based fanatic,” his opinion piece infuriated me, most likely, much to his delight. The truth hurts, he might be heard saying all the way from the West Coast. After stewing over his rant against religion, I decided to invest some time into articulating a response to Egan’s trash talking Op-Ed piece.

Just to be clear about terms, a fanatic is one who is “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.” Many of those who Egan rants against would reject the idea that they are devoted “uncritically” to their faith. In truth, they have excessive enthusiasm because they have critically examined their faith just as atheists share the same devotion to their beliefs. And let’s be honest, “non-faith based fanatics” are legion, too. Continue reading “Faith Based Fanatics: A Response to Timothy Egan” »

Mark 6

One Picture is Worth a 1000 Sermons

I preached this morning from Mark 6, the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. Mark crafts the story in such a way that see our Savior as the Messianic Good Shepherd. One of my church members composed this picture on his bulletin during the sermon. An amazing capture of the essence of Mark 6.30-52.

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Christ, Our Fellowship Offering (Leviticus 3)

Before I actually took the time to closely read the Book of Leviticus and to study the law, I assumed that the sacrificial system was a system of sacrifices that were all basically the same, with the exception of the Day of Atonement. Sin, bring an animal, end of story, right? What I am learning is that the Lord presented Moses and Israel with a variety of offerings, each with its own set of rules, regulations, and purposes. This means that a worshipper in ancient Israel didn’t just haphazardly bring an offering to the tabernacle, nor to the Temple. The worshipper had to think about what kind of offering he was bringing and to examine the proper way to bring it. This mitigated against a worshipper just going through the motions. Worship was intentional, and great care was given to make sure it was done properly. It kind of shames our “just show up at church” mentality today.

More importantly, to group all of the various sacrifices together into one sacrifice is to miss how each one of them was fulfilled by Christ. Christ is the Passover Lamb. Christ is the once and for all burnt offering. Christ is the scape goat. And in chapter 3 of Leviticus, we discover that Christ is the once and for all peace offering. Continue reading “Christ, Our Fellowship Offering (Leviticus 3)” »

beheading of john

The Encouraging Story of John the Baptist’s Death (Mark 6.14-29)

Why did Mark think it was important to tell his readers about the death of John the Baptist? And why did he frame the story of John’s death within the story of the sending of the twelve? Was it intentional, accidental, or just a coincidence?

Allow me to suggest that the answer to those questions lies in the setting of Mark’s gospel. Remember, Mark was Peter’s “ghost writer,” of sorts. Peter discipled Mark. And after Mark abandoned the apostle Paul during the first missionary journey, he eventually resurfaced in Rome alongside the apostle Peter. According to the church fathers, Mark was commissioned to write down Peter’s remembrances of the life of Christ. This means that Mark wrote the gospel around the time of the end of Peter’s life.

And we should not miss the obvious fact that Peter’s first epistle contains numerous references to suffering for the gospel.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV)

What does the setting of Mark’s writing have to do with including the story of the death of John and framing the story within the sending of the twelve?

I think that Mark was encouraging his Roman readers. Continue reading “The Encouraging Story of John the Baptist’s Death (Mark 6.14-29)” »