Archive for the ‘Faith’ 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.)

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.

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!

Gay mole!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

So I bought The Unlikely Disciple, a new book by Kevin Roose about his semester at Liberty University. Not usually interesting, except that Roose is a liberal Ivy Leaguer from Brown. The result is intriguing, enlightening, and downright hilarious.

The biggest mix (for me) of sorrow and laughter comes from the rampant gay jokes that permeate the campus. At the end of the semester, Roose is on the verge of being found out by the local rebel (who happens to have a knack for recognizing other rebels). Here’s the exchange:

Joey glances up at the ceiling, then shoots me a suspicious, sideways glare. Oh no. I know that look. I’ve been afraid of that look since the day I got here. That’s the look of a guy who is putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Right now, Joey is thinking: student journalist . . . came to Liberty from secular school . . . scored an interview with Dr. Falwell . . . leaving after one semester . . .

“You know, Rooster,” he says, “I almost feel like you’re a mole, and when this semester’s over, you’re gonna go back and write an article in Rolling Stone about being different at Liberty.”

I laugh — an involuntary, nervous laugh — and stammer, “What do you mean . . . different?”

“You know,” Joey says. “Gay.”

This semester, Joey has called me gay approximately ten thousand times, but this time sounds different. . . 

“So . . . are you?” he asks.

“Gay?”

“Or a mole.”

We stare at each other for fifteen seconds, tension filling the space between us. Head spinning, gut churning, I spurt out the first thing that comes to mind.

“You got me Joey. I’m a gay mole. Actually, I work for Elton John. He sent me here to recruit innocent Christian kids for his army of homosexuals. He told me to become friends with the Liberty students who seemed like closeted gays, and I picked you. Want to join?”

Joey laughs. “Suck my balls.”

He turns back to our video game, chuckling, apparently convinced of my innocence for now. Five minutes later, he looks at me again, shaking his head.

“Man, Rooster, you are one weird bastard.”

Roose is, indeed, a “weird bastard,” but he gives an amazing outsider’s look at evangelical concepts of sin, perspectives on sex and dating, and culture wars (the “God Divide“). While we obviously disagree on core issues, it’s a great book. Buy it, borrow it, read it.

Worldview Journalism

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I am not a fan of American evangelical media.  I think the movies, with few exceptions, are cheese; Christian comedy isn’t; and most magazines should turn in their presses to the local media police. Not that the secular versions of these are morally satisfying fare, but rather they don’t pretend to mediocrity — their quality is not judged secondarily to their worldview.

When it comes to journalism, I appreciate honesty and objectivity. I used to like the New York Times, but their super-liberal bias clouds their ability to effectively relate the facts, and they’ve lost the ability to be honest about what they believe and who they are. The Wall Street Journal doesn’t pretend, and while I see a great failure to answer many pressing social issues, and a total lack of journalistic compassion, at least the WSJ doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

I liked Newsweek, until the December 15, 2009, issue that declared “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.”  I’ve heard the same arguments before, but this article, and the editorial column that preceded it, claimed something that had heretofore not been part of the discussion: that those who believe otherwise are irrational, worthless fundamentalists who might as well give up.  “A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it’s impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.”  All this in the guise of journalistic objectivity.  

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