Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed – Psalm 2

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Sermon preached at Grace Church of Philly (Feltonville) on February 3, 2013. Audio is available here

A MESSIANIC PSALM

The psalms are a collection of individual songs and poems that were preserved for use in Jewish worship.  They often don’t sound like songs when translated into English, but the psalms are a hymnbook, and many churches throughout the centuries have written music and used them as songs in their worship services.

This, by the way, is why we call it Psalm number two, or the second Psalm, instead of saying Psalm chapter two.  The chapter and verse numbers in other books were added later on to make it easier to find your place in one long text, but each of the psalms in many ways stands by itself.

Each psalm can have a different author, a different historical context, a different style, and a different purpose.  Scholars have debated the context, authorship, and purpose of Psalm 2, because unlike many other psalms, there is no heading to guide us. Many commentators call this is a royal psalm, thinking that it was written for the coronation of a new king in Israel. If you read the notes in the ESV Study Bible, which is my absolute favorite study Bible, and strongly recommended, this is the view you will see.

But my big question about Psalm 2 is this: instead of an earthly king of Israel, does this psalm primarily speak of Jesus, Israel’s promised Messiah?  When the psalm says the “Lord’s Anointed,” the word in Hebrew for anointed is “Messiah,” which translated into Greek is “Christ.”  It could be referring to one of the anointed kings of Israel. But the scenes and the promises portrayed in the psalm are bigger than what any human king of Israel could expect – even David and Solomon were not promised all the nations for their domain, and neither are declared to be the begotten Son of God. So we consider, is this primarily speaking of Jesus?  I think the answer is yes, absolutely.

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Better books for Kindle

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

My Kindle version of the venerable JFB commentary. Better than the other slop on Amazon.

I got a Kindle from my mama and papa for Christ­mas, and I absolutely love it for reading — and only for reading. Light in my hand, reads with natural light, not the glow of a com­puter screen, and is purpose-focused on just one thing: reading.

One of the biggest dis­appoint­ments, however, is that many of the books available from Amazon are abso­lutely horrendous in their digital format­ting. The text often looks like it was OCRed and not corrected. Words are mis­spelled, missing, or run together. And these issues are horribly worse with the public domain materials, which seem to be, for the most part, sloppy auto­mated re­packag­ing of Inter­net Archive output. There may or may not be the nec­essary links to navi­gate the book (table of contents is a must, and an index is often helpful).

Amazon at least gives this slop out for free, but there are a slew of shady publishers on the store who like to charge for it. All of which gives a very bad experience for a user who actually likes to read, and cares about things like text, format, and setting.

I can’t save the world, but I can contribute better things. So I figured out how to make Kindle eBooks and distribute them in Amazon’s store. I’ve done two books so far: a short one of the Westminster Confession of Faith, with integrated Scripture proofs, and the longer Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown.

I think they are two great resources for Kindle, and are pleasant and useful in a properly formatted ebook. If you have a little spare change, I’d be honored for you to buy them from Amazon (99 cents and $3.99, respectively). If you’re hard up for cash, let me know and I’ll send you the book files directly.

Another publisher who cares about such things and seems to have invested significant effort to make usable Christian resources is OSNOVA. Don’t know the guy, but he is a conscientious guy and I think you’ll appreciate his materials.

Best Bible Ever

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Cambridge Pitt Minion ESV Bible

I’m picky when it comes to Bibles. Binding has to be good, cover has to be perfect, margins can’t be too small, font can’t be some stupid modern nonsense, and the paper can’t be too thin or transparent. So this is just a quick note to plug an amazing good Bible, the Cambridge Pitt Minion.  You can even pick from major translations: mine is the ESV, my sister’s is the NIV, and there are also NKJV, NASB, and NLT options available.

Having used this as my primary Bible for two and a half years, I have to say this is the absolute best Bible I’ve ever owned. Quality leather that feels and looks nice and handles well. Sewn binding that is strong and permits the Bible to lay open flat (without holding) pretty much from beginning to end. Clear and crisp text, nice formatting and layout. The Bible has held up excellently.

One caveat for the potential buyer is that it is smaller than one might expect. I’m young, I can afford small text. But if somebody made this Bible just like it is, only 25% larger, I’d jump for it in a heartbeat.

I’m not getting paid for a review. I just really like my Bible!

Our Only Deliverer

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

(Sermon preached at Wyoming Ave. Baptist Church, April 3, 2011)

Introduction

A. The story

John 6:16-21

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum.  It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.  The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.  When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.  But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”  Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

B. Immediate context – it’s a sandwich!

The text we are considering is a relatively short passage, just 6 verses.  Whenever we begin a study, we examine where a section fits in the narrative, in the larger study of the particular book, and in the Bible, in God’s story as a whole.

Right before this passage is the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  Right after this passage is the sermon that explains that particular miracle.  Jesus explains how he is the true bread from heaven – not just the new provider of manna, but the manna itself.  So the story of Jesus walking on water fits between the miracle of bread and the sermon on bread.  In effect, it’s a sandwich!

So how does this particular “meat” speaks to the “bread” that surrounds it.  I’ll tell you right up front.  In the miracle of the new manna, Jesus demonstrates to the crowd that he is indeed the prophet like Moses that God had promised.  But what he reveals to his disciples is that he is more than a bigger Moses – he is almighty God.

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Martin Luther, Guarding the Church

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

This is from Martin Luther. Found part of a quote in Christianity Today, and went looking for some context. The imagery of the sarcasm here is (to coin an oxy-moron) forcibly subtle — read it slowly and then read it again, and make sure you get the sarcasm and understand his point in the second paragraph.

A thousand years ago you and I were nothing, and yet the church was preserved at that time without us. He who is called “who was” and “yesterday” had to accomplish this. Even during our lifetime we are not the church’s guardians. It is not preserved by us, for we are unable to drive off the devil in the persons of the pope, the sects, and evil individuals. If it were up to us, the church would perish before our very eyes, and we together with it (as we experience daily). But it is another who obviously preserves both the church and us. He does this so plainly that we could touch and feel it, if we did not want to believe it. We must leave this to him who is called “who is” and “today.” Likewise we will contribute nothing toward the preservation of the church after our death. He who is called “who is to come” and “forever” will accomplish it. What we are now saying about ourselves in this respect, our ancestors also had to say, as is borne out by the psalms and the Scriptures. And out descendants will make the same discovery, prompting them to join us and the entire church in singing Psalm 124: “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let Israel now say,” etc.

It is a tragic thing that there are so many examples before us of those who thought they had to preserve the church, as though it were built on them. In the end they perished miserably. Yet such fierce judgment of God cannot break, humble, or check our pride and wickedness. What was Munzer’s fate in our day (to say nothing of old and former times), who imagined that the church could not exist without him and that he had to bear it up and rule it? Recently the Anabaptists reminded us forcefully enough how mighty and how close to us the lovely devil is, and how dangerous our pretty thoughts are, impelling us to pause and reflect (according to the advice of Isaiah) before any undertaking, to determine whether it is God or an idol, whether gold or clay. But it is no use — we are so secure, without fear and concern; the devil is far from us, and we have none of that flesh in us that was in St. Paul and of which he complains in Romans 7:23, exclaiming that he cannot deliver himself from it as he would like, but that he is captive to it. No, we are the heroes who need not worry about our flesh and our thoughts. We are sheer spirit, we have taken captive our own flesh together with the devil, so that all our thoughts and ideas are surely and certainly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and how can the Spirit be found wanting? Therefore it all has such a nice ending — namely, that both steed and rider break their necks.

But this is enough of such lamentations. May our dear Lord Christ be and remain our dear Lord Christ, praised forever. Amen.

(From “Martin Luther’s basic theological writings,” some pages of which are available on Google Books.)

That Navy internship finally paid off…

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

The big air conditioner at church wasn’t working right. The second compressor wasn’t turning on, and we couldn’t figure out what it was. Pressing the contactor on the relay powered it right up, so it was wired right. And Loran bypassed the low and high-pressure cutoff safety switches, but it still wouldn’t turn itself on.

So we found the wiring schematics from Carrier. The high power stuff was wired correctly. Problem had to be in the low voltage. So we traced compressor 1’s control wiring from the thermostat connections through the pressure switches, and did the same with compressor 2 (minus the now-disconnected switches). Everything seemed to be correct, except that the incoming low voltage for C2 wasn’t powered.

So we traced a little further, and found a broken jumper in the economizer unit that was constantly calling for outside air, and also thus not energizing the second compressor. My father the soldering gun guru did a little magic on the resistor wire, and C2 powered right up.

Back in the summer of ’95, I had a crazy little summer internship for NAVSSES, the Naval Ship Systems Engineering Station, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. I worked for the boiler control division, doing electrical diagrams for steam boiler and turbine control systems. And now, 15 years later, it finally pays off. Turns out I can read an electrical diagram.

Forgiveness

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Wess Stafford, the president of Compassion International, was abused as a child in a boarding school for missionary children in Africa. His story in Christianity Today (“A Candle in the Darkness,” May 2010) is an amazingly moving account that is worth reading.

More important, I think, is Stafford’s followup response in this month’s issue (the Letters section):

Ever since my story appeared in Christianity Today, the most common question I’ve heard is, “How did you move from pain to deliverance?”  My reply to readers is a single word: forgiveness.

At age 17, I realized that those who hurt me would never apologize. They weren’t even sorry. But I could no longer bear carrying the pain of my past, so I chose to forgive them anyway. “Get out of my heart. Get out of my mind. Get out of my life!” I remember saying. “What you did to me will not define me. You stole my childhood, but you cannot have the rest of my life. Get out — I forgive you!”

Since then I’ve learned that while God always requires us to forgive, forgiving isn’t saying that what happened was okay. It doesn’t release someone from the consequences of their actions. And it doesn’t require letting someone back into your life. It does mean giving up the right to seek revenge.

So, here is my counsel to those who have suffered: If you have never been able to forgive, you are allowing the person who hurt you to live rent-free in your heart. It’s costing him nothing and costing you everything. Perhaps it’s time for you to evict him through forgiveness.

New Mission Website

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

My sister has been pestering me for ages to design a new website for the Whosoever Gospel Mission.  Sadly, my creativity in design ebbs and flows, and it just wasn’t flowing.  Until I upgraded all my WordPress installations to the new 3.0 version. I took one look at the new default template (“Twenty Ten”), and thought, “now that’s something I can work with.” 48 hours later… I love WordPress.

The Real Threat of ACORN

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

acornKaren Heller, a columnist for the Inquirer, wrote about the evil, awful ACORN people conservatives keep attacking. (Inquirer, Saturday, October 3, 2009.) Of course, that line was only a setup, as she went on to describe the young, idealistic college graduates and the African American grandmothers and great-grandmothers who are making sure Latinos have a voice and that greedy banks don’t foreclose on good people who need homes. Wonderful stuff, indeed, but she comes to the conclusion that this work is being shutdown by vengeful conservatives afraid of minorities getting a voice. And she blames the subtly unnamed “right-wing conspiracy” for all of ACORN’s woes.

Never mind that ACORN affiliates all over the country are implicated in sketchy activities. Never mind that anybody in their right mind would have called the cops when that ridiculous pimp-n-ho duo walked in the door (thankfully, the Philly people did). Never mind that ACORN’s very corporate structuring is intended to obfuscate and hide funding and oversight, politicizing non-partisan activities (like voter registration) and using federal funds for illegitimate purposes. Think I’m exaggerating? Read their own lawyer’s internal investigation and strong-worded suggestions.

It’s time for the good people doing good work at ACORN to step out and say, “enough of the corruption, enough of the greed, we’ve got real work to do,” and start their own organizations, well purposed, well governed, transparent from the start. Moral high ground is only difficult to attain for those unwilling to give up their vices.

Anyway, here’s my letter to Ms. Heller:

Dear Ms. Heller,

I understand you’re an opinion columnist, so I don’t ever expect to agree with you.  I think you’re entirely missing the point with your ACORN article, and the comments from readers at the bottom are closer to the truth.  It’s not the fault of accusers that good people can’t continue their good work — it’s the fault of the bad apples and bad ideas that were tolerated too long by bad leadership.

In any case, if you feel ACORN, locally at least, is doing such good work, and that there is a mass of likeminded people that agree with you, why don’t you all fund ACORN yourselves?  Or is this a case where you think ACORN should get OPM (other people’s money)?  The reliance on “free” tax dollars and the distancing of funding decisions from the people most concerned about important issues causes an explosion of greed and corruption.

Sadly, a handful of good people get tarnished.  But maybe its time for them to leave and do their own thing — because surely ACORN can’t be the only organization doing any of this work, can it?

Blame the bad guys for the problems they cause, even to innocent people.  Don’t blame the messengers.

Sincerely,
Walt Rice

CNN’s anti-Christian Bias?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Codex SinaiticusJust read an article on CNN (“Oldest known Bible goes online“) about the online unveiling of the Codex Sinaiticus. This particular article is misleading as to the particulars of the difference between the ancient codex and modern Bibles, and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding on the subject (or significant anti-Christian bias) by its author.

To have apocryphal books present in an ancient codex is not unusual, nor unexpected; most of the books mentioned indeed are still present in Bibles that you can buy from the bookstore. They aren’t missing, they aren’t seditionary — but it seems the article is trumped up to make excitement that everything you thought you knew about the Bible isn’t true!

The discussion about changes and corrections in the codex does not include any thought as to whether the changes were corrections towards the accepted text or deviations from it; the part about missing passages doesn’t bother to mention whether the omissions are due to missing pages or damage or were never written.

There is also no discussion of the possible theological bent of the monastery where this was copied, which could have led the scribes to change it for their purposes (see the Jefferson Bible, for instance).

I don’t expect a news reporter to spout the standard Christian doctrine, but I do expect a discussion that respects and represents the nuance of the subject in question. And the fact that they would never write an article like this about the Koran reinforces the possibility that this is, plain and simple, anti-Christian bias.

Bad journalism, bad scholarship, and patently offensive besides. CNN, you’ve done it again!