Tuesday Books: ‘Journey Into God’s Word’ (Duvall and Hayes)

2+2=4 (or so they tell me)

I would dare say that all of us (even the mathmatically challenged like myself) can understand the above equation. It is second nature for us to look at that and understand what is being communicated. But as simple as it is, we had to learn how to do it. None of us were born able to handle even a simple mathmatical problem, we had to be taught. Somebody had to tell us what the number ‘2’ meant and what the ‘+’ sign meant as well as the ‘=’ sign. Without that, we would be as lost on this equation as we would on one far more complicated (like say, 2×2=4, now we are getting tricky!) Some basic guidelines are necessary in all types of learning.

I used this illustration to begin my Sunday School class on Sunday over the different genre’s of the Old Testament (Narrative, Law, Wisdom, and Poetry). (Aside: I love our Sunday School material ‘The Gospel Project.’ We have been using it for three years and it is great, looking forward to their new study through the Bible series that begins in the Fall). In our class we talked about some basic guidelines for understanding each of these types of biblical writing. If we do not understand these guidelines then we can make some mistakes in our reading and application of the Bible. For example, reading poetry in the same way that we read Law is like thinking that 2+2 and 2×2 is the same. Yes, they both equal 4, but what happens when you change it to 2+3 and 2×3, do they both equal 5? We need a basic understanding of the guidelines of interpretation to read the Bible faithfully.

And the good news, it’s not all that difficult. I discovered this when I took “Introduction to Bible Study” my Freshman year of college. I kinda thought going in: ‘Who needs this class, don’t we all know how to study the Bible?’ Man, was I wrong. That class changed my life becase it changed my approach to reading the Bible. Not that I had been doing it all wrong my whole life, but just that I needed some important guidelines to do it better and to avoid errors. These were not new ideas (we do not need ‘new ideas’ for interpreting our Bibles, 2+2 has been and always will be 4). No, they were just simple lessons for faithfully understanding and applying the text.

For example, what do we do with proverbs that don’t seem to always come true (like say Proverbs 22:6 about training up a child)? Do we dismiss the Bible if a child turns away? No, we simply need to understand that the proverbs are not promises (always come to pass) but principles (generally come to pass). Not every hard worker will be rich (13:4, 21:5), but normally they are. It is wise to be a hard worker (diligent) and to train our children to be hard workers, not because they are guaranteed to be wealthy but because generally hard workers are not lacking in what they need. So then, this simple change in approach can better help us understand God’s Word.

One of my favorite books on interpreting the Bible was written by Duvall and Hayes. It is called ‘Grasping God’s Word.’ If you are looking for a thorough volume on this subject, then I recommend it to you (it’s pictured below). But if you are looking for something more simple (like you know, less pages), then I recommend their smaller volume ‘Journey into God’s Word’ (which I plan on offering a study through in the Fall for students if you are in the area and might be interested). This book will give you a basic understanding of the necessary guidelines for interpreting the Bible. (Hey, and if you are really interested and can’t wait for the Fall, our Sunday School lessons for the next few weeks will be continuing to cover this as well.)

I assume that if you are reading this then you are least somewhat interested in reading. If you believe with me that the Bible is God’s Word, then wouldn’t it make sense to take some time to read about how we can study it faithfully? In our current spiritual climate, I believe that it is critical. There are some good books out there on the subject (and some bad ones as well). I encourage you to give Duvall and Hayes a try, I think they will be a good place to start. Here are some of the volumes I own, let me know if you want to borrow one:

Monday Music: ‘You are Good’ (Glenna Marshall)

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Glenna began recording her new EP on Friday tentatively titled “The Anchoring.” It will include 6 new songs that she has written and feature her on the keys. Our engineer/producer on this project is Jake Bond and he is doing a great job so far (can’t wait for you guys to hear it all come together).

A few years back, Glenna and I recorded some songs that we had written around the theme of “Love and Family.” We each wrote and sang six songs. We did it all ourselves with a little help from our friends on lead guitars, mandolin, bass, and cello. I am proud of the way it turned out and we were able to use at as a fundraiser for our current adoption. You can listen to and purchase the album here:

Love & Family

I know I am partial (because she is my beloved), but my wife is a great song writer. She has often moved me to tears with her honesty and the beauty of her lyrics. And she sings like an angel (looks like one too, hey, I said I was partial).

One of my favorite songs of hers is ‘Your are good.’ It is a song of confession, of what we believe about God and His character even when we cannot see it or feel it. It is a song that we need when our circumstances seem to contradict our theology. It reminds us that no matter how hard things may get, the character of God never changes. No matter what, He is good. It is a great song because it speaks of our great God, who is always good. Give it a listen:

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Friday Sports etc: Van

So my van broke down, on my birthday. (Not to mention other happenings in the world today.) And even though I spent two hours in the sun trying to fix it with some great help from a friend who had the misfortune of being with me at the time, she’s still broke. Broken van means broken blog for the day (sometimes that happens), but the routine will resume on Monday, Lord willing. Hope you have a car-trouble free weekend!

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Thursday Links: Plurality of Elders (Barry Maxwell)

In my teaching and experience, one of the healthiest things that can happen in a local Church is the recognition of gifted and qualified men to labor together in the oversight of souls. One of my all-time favorite bloggers/writers has done a four part series on why every local Church should consider this issue. Each part is excellent and I encourage you to take some time to think it over and pray about how you could serve to make your church more healthy in this regard. You can find the posts here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

O for grace to shepherd well!!

wm

Wednesday Word: Four 19s (Genesis, Judges, John, Revelation)

  

Genesis 19

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a fairly familiar story in the Old Testament. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, had chosen to dwell in the city of Sodom and the Lord was planning on destroying it because of its wickedness. When the Lord sent angels to the city, Lot brought them into his house to protect them. During the night, the men of Sodom came to Lot’s house and demanded to ‘know them’ sexually. Lot offered up his own daughters instead (not a great moment for him) but the angels intervened by blinding the men and they escaped the city before God rained down judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah for their great evil.

Judges 19

The story of the Levite and his concubine is less known. During the time of the judges in Israel, a man and his woman were making their way home and chose to stay in the city of Gibeah, a town of Benjamin, one of the tribes of Israel. Yet, as happened in Sodom, the men of Gibeah came and demanded to ‘know’ the Levite. Instead, the Levite gave them his concubine, whom they abused all night and left for dead. The author of Judges tells the story in a way that it parallels the telling of the story of Lot in Genesis 19. Any Israelite would have made the connections. The wickedness that permeated the city of Sodom was now present in Gibeah, a city of Israel.

The darkness present in both of these passages is sobering. The sinfulness of men is apparent in both stories. And neither Israel, nor anyone else, could claim to be free from its clutches.

John 19

In light of such depravity, the Father sent His own Son as a man. He lived a perfect life by obeying the Father in every way. John 19 tells of His crucifixion on the cross, where He suffered in the place of sinners under the righteous wrath of God. The ugliest scene in the Bible is not in Sodom or Gibeah, it is just outside of Jerusalem on the hill of Golgotha. Jesus, the Innocent, dying for the rebellion of men.

Revelation 19

The book of Revelation tells of the triumphal return of Christ for His Bride, the Church. John describes the scene of the marriage supper of the Lamb in chapter 19. The Bride of Christ, made up of all who turn from their sins and believe in Jesus, is described as being clothed with fine linen, bright and pure (v. 8). The Lamb nailed their filthy wrags to His tree and exchanged them for glorious splendor. They will rejoice in His presence and give Him all the glory throughout eternity.

These four chapters trace the story of God’s redemption of a people through the sending of His Son. They teach us that man’s sin is horrible and ugly. It leads to abuse and violence. And we see that we cannot take comfort in thinking that sin is just ‘out there’ running crazy in the lives of a few people. No, if we are honest, these chapters force us to confess our own rebellion. It might not evidence itself through rape and murder, but it is still lust and anger. We might not want to kill someone because they look different than us, but we still do not love our fellow man as we should. Likewise, these chapters make it plain that simple solutions will not do. Education will not save a man from his pride. Gun control laws will not defeat racism. Regulations for the video game industry will not end violence. These are only band-aids (perhaps helpful, but not effective). You cannot treat a broken heart with a band-aid. It requires a transplant.

But the good news, the amazing news, is that God takes unworthy sinners and adopts them into His family through the power of the cross. Dirty sinners dressed in splendor. A heart of flesh in place of my heart of stone. Those who have played the harlot as the Bride of Christ. Amazing. For the record, I know that the chapter divisons are not inspiried (I am not advocating for a revision of ‘The Bible Code’). Yet, I hope that these four 19s are just another way to remember God’s grace. After all, how in the world could a story that begins with Genesis 3 (including Genesis 19 and Judges 19) end with Revelation 19-22? Only the grace of God could do that. The grace we see on display in the 19th chapter of John.

wm

Tuesday Books: ‘The Trellis and the Vine’ (Marshall and Payne)


What are we supposed to be doing as the local Church? Serving the community? Building functional facilities? Having great services on Sunday morning and Sunday evening? As important as all of these are (and they are important) the great task that is given to local Churches is this: make disciples. Everything we do should serve that end.

Marshall and Payne wrote the book ‘The Trellis and the Vine’ to help ministers see the difference between trellis work (buildings, meetings, programs, etc.) and vine work (helping people be faithful followers of Christ). Their argument, and I agree with them, is that it is very easy to get so preoccupied with trellis work that we never actually get around to vine work. So they lay out some practical ways to be investing in people and making disciples as the local church.

Think about it this way: Let’s say you have a church of 100 people. There is a full time pastor, a part time music minister, and a part time youth guy, on staff. Add to them maybe 6 deacons, a discipleship director, and we’ll say 10 Sunday School teachers. I think that adds up to 20 people. If the old saying is true then those 20 or so folks are doing most of the work in the Church. What then are the other 80 or so folks doing? But then to make matters worse, what if the work that is getting done by the 20 deals more with just keeping things going (planning services, taking care of facilities) than actually making disciples? Who then is making disciples? The Church may end up sustaining a trellis without growing the vine. These are the issues that Marshall and Payne are attempting to address.

I first read this book when it came out a few years ago and just finished it again with some local pastors. It is a great book for ministers, but it is also helpful for others as well. The healthiest churches are those where everyone is a minister, where everyone is doing all that they can to be a disciple who is making disciples. How are you laboring to that end? To be a disciple is to make disciples, anything less is disobedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). ‘The Trellis and the Vine’ encourages us to be faithful to the task that matters.

wm

Monday Music: ‘Closer’ (John Mark McMillan)

A few years ago, I created a playlist in my iTunes account entitled “Best Songs.” My thought was to keep a running list of my 10 favorite songs. As I worked through my library looking for my favorites I realized that some of my favorite songs (‘In Christ Alone’ is one example) don’t have a recording that I like as much as other recordings of other songs (hope that makes sense). So the playlist became my ’10 favorite recordings’. Yet still, it includes some of my favorite songs of all time and it does not change that much. Good songs don’t get old, they just get better with time (like a fine wine, or so I’m told).

One song that made the list originally and remains to this day is ‘Closer’ by John Mark McMillan (JMM). Most folks know of JMM as the writer of the song ‘How He Loves,’ which David Crowder made famous. Yet, not everyone is familiar with his other stuff. His latest album Borderland was a departure musically from his older stuff and I did not like it as much as The Medicine and Economy, two fantastic albums. ‘Closer’ is off his earliest album The Song Inside the Sounds of Breaking Down, which is another great album and includes his version of ‘How He Loves’ (better than Crowder!)

I enjoy this song so much because it captures well the desperation of the human heart. Like so many other great songs, it is simply a prayer for the Lord to draw near. The verses remind us that fairy tales and philosophy are empty and leave us only longing for more. But the power of the song is found in the bridge. Using the language of Bartimaeus (see Mark 10:47ff) and others who called out to Christ in the Gospels, JMM sings/shouts: “Son of David, don’t pass me by! Cause I am naked, I’m poor and I’m blind.” Every time I hear that bridge I cannot help but be moved. For I am Bartimaeus. Without Christ, I am naked and poor and blind. I am stranded on the side of the road to Hell desperate for a Savior. And what can I do but cry out for mercy that I do not deserve? JMM captures this moment powerfully and I hear my own voice calling out through the strain of his vocals. Give it a listen and be encouraged by the Savior who does indeed come closer when we cry out for grace:

Closer by JMM

Friday Sports etc: Raising a fan

In keeping with the links from yesterday, I have a simple question for today:

How do you teach your kids to watch sports (read: how do I make sure that my son is a Vols fan)?

I want my son to enjoy playing and watching sports. As a fan of the University of Tennessee this has become a bit difficult in recent years. You know it is bad when your son comments in June: “The Vols were kinda bad last Fall.” (Hey, at least he knows we play football in the Fall!) How do you build their fandom when there is not as much to cheer about?

One thing you can do is forbid the watching of other (more successful) teams. In March, a certain blue team was mentioned regularly around my house as the best basketball team. And to be honest, its hard not to be impressed with their success as of late. So then, one option would be to simply forbid watching March Madness (especially when your team doesn’t even make the field). But you know, that’s not really an option is it? Even without Tennessee playing, the Road to the Final Four is still the best sporting event on the planet. So forbidding my son to watch it will not really work.

Another option is to live in the past. Talk about the history of the program and all the great coaches and players that have played for your school. This has worked to some degree for us. The greatness of Peyton Manning has been mentioned a couple of times around my house. But this approach is not foolproof. “Remember 1998?!” does not get very far with my seven year old.

Some try to ensure that the future will be brighter by giving money to the University. Uhhhh, not an option.

So what is my plan? Well, along with variations of the above, we are going with the classic approach: only by him orange!!!

Truth be told, I have hope for the future of the Vols and Isaiah is excited about watching Josh Dobbs in the Fall (he’s already been asking me about going to another game in Neyland). So we are ready and I am doing my best to raise a Vol fan!

wm

Got any advice for raising fans? Any success stories?

Me working on the post this morning:

Thursday Links: Kids and sports

I enjoy sports (I mean, I devoted a whole day to it on Fridays, so that should be obvious). I like playing sports (mostly basketball and golf these days, although it has been a while since I made it to the links). I like watching sports (I could watch 8-12 hours of college football on Saturdays in the Fall if I didn’t realize what a terrible waste of time that would be as a husband and father and human). I even enjoy reading and writing about sports (see Fridays).

As a parent of a growing seven year old, I have discovered a new thing I like about sports: watching/coaching my son. But as with other areas of sports, there is a danger in being a parent with a kid or kids in sports, namely making it more than it was intended to be. So today’s first link is to an article that gives some good advice on how to avoid these dangers. You can find it here:

Important words for your kids when they play sports

(HT Dan Tankersley)

The second article is a bit more controversial. To be honest, I don’t agree with everything the author says, but it is food for thought and since I read it last week I thought I would go ahead and link it here:

Should kids play sports on Sunday?

And for the record, if you disagree with the article, did you notice how I protected myself with the general statement that ‘I don’t agree with everything the author says.’ So maybe I agree with your disagreement and maybe I don’t (I know, pretty unmanly thing to do a couple of days before Father’s Day!)

Give those links a read and honor God as a parent of kids who play sports!

wm

Wednesday Word: Who needs the 2nd commandment? (Judges 17-18)


Biblical illiteracy is not just tragic and unfortunate, it is dangerous. This is exemplified in the terrible history of the children’s crusades, which took place in the 12th-13th centuries. The entire history of the crusades is an ugly part of Church History in and of itself, but the particular history of sending masses of children to their deaths as part of the campaign to retake the Holy Land is horrible. How could leaders allow this to happen? How could parents send their kids off to battle? To be sure, the answers to those questions are long and complicated, but one factor that seemed to play a major part is the simple fact that people did not know what the Bible actually said. Most did not own a Bible and even if they did they could not read it since it was written in Latin. Thus, if a charismatic leader stood up and talked about the importance of securing the Promised Land (quoting some passages out of context to support the notion) and then told you that God wanted your children to fight (perhaps promising their safety from other misused passages), then you might be willing to send them off. It seems crazy today because it is a crazy idea. One that is easily dismissed with a basic knowledge of the Old and New Testaments. But without such knowledge…

We see an example of the dangers of Biblical illiteracy in the book of Judges as well. The time of the judges was one of darkness for the people of Israel. They had repeatedly sinned against God by worshipping the gods of the nations around them. They did not completely abandon God, they just ignored the instructions that He had given them for being His people. They simply did what was right in their own eyes (17:6, 21:25).

The author of the book tells us the story of Micah and the Levite to illustrate this approach. Let me summarize their story found in Judges 17. Micah stole some money from his mom and confessed to the theft when she spoke a curse against the thief. The mom was so excited about his confession that she decided to take some of the money and dedicate it to the Lord by having it made into a carved image. Micah set up a shrine to the image and made one of his sons a priest. Then a Levite came to town and Micah offered him money (10 shekels and a shirt) to be his personal priest. He was after all from the tribe of Levi, those assigned the task of being priests. The chapter concludes with Micah’s celebration: “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”

Although the author of the book offers no comment on Micah’s actions, anyone familiar with the Law of Israel should see the glaring problem. In fact, you don’t even have to know that much about the Law. Even if all you know is say the 10 Commandments you can see the problem. Just a knowledge of the first two will do. For what is the second commandment? “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…” (Exodus 20:4). That seems fairly straight forward. So why did Micah, Micah’s mom, his son, and the Levite, all seem to miss it?

Really, only two options seem plausible. Either they were completly ignorant of the ten commandments or they simply ignored them. Perhaps they thought: ‘As long as you get the first one right, who cares if you keep the other nine? Nobody wants to be that radical, right?’ Or maybe they thought: ‘God wants us to be accepting of other forms of worship, so He will be pleased with our carved images.’ Or maybe they just didn’t care that much anymore and just wanted to look like everyone else. We cannot be precise with their motives since the text does not say, but either way, lack of obedience to the Word was costly.

In fact, the next chapter tells us how what began in one man’s house actually spread to an entire tribe. By the end of Judges 18, you have a whole tribe ignoring the second commandment. It is a tragic tale.

How do we avoid these mistakes? How do we see through the errors? How do we keep from worshipping a graven image and sending our children off to a pointless war? Simple, we must know the Word of God. The book of Judges describes a people who have forgotten their God, forgotten His commands, and forgotten how He rescued them from slavery (see the book of Exodus). And the truth is, we are not above such forgetfulness. We must hold fast to the story of our redemption, the story of a humble son of a carpenter living a perfect life, dying on a cross for our sins and being raised again for our forgiveness. The images that lure us away may not be carved out of silver but they are still lined with gold (have I heard that somewhere?) And they still draw us away from faithful worship of God. May we see them for what they are through the Word and may we be delivered from their appeal through the Word who became flesh.

wm