Thursday, October 15, 2009

Weird story with in a story

Shortly after the Joseph narrative is introduced (37), the story is interrupted to tell another story (38). The story of Judah and Tamar has caused a lot of heads to be scratched.

To fast forward the story, Judah had three sons (Er, Onan, and Shelah) by a Canaanite woman (ouch). Er married Tamar, but was so wicked that God put him to death. To continue the line, the levirate marriage was enacted but Onan refused to reproduce with Tamar so the Lord took him as well. Judah simply wanted to rid himself of Tamar so he sent her away childless. This would have left her without any means to supply her future. Judah does promise to give Shelah when he is old enough but this is doubtful because he is afraid of losing Shelah also (38:11).
Tamar is presented as a resourceful and driven individual. She disguised herself as a prostitute and slept with Judah sometime after his wife died. Obviously, she had to be paid, so Judah promises her a kid (not human). But she wanted something as a guarantee, she requested something to identify him (signet and staff). This would have been equal to giving someone your drivers license and SS number.

This is interesting. This makes the 3rd generation to practice deceit. Jacob deceived Isaac (27:16), Judah deceived Jacob (37:31), and now Tamar deceives Judah. Even more interesting is that each of these incidents involves taking someones identity and a goat (note the scriptures listed)!

To fast forward again. Tamar has twins! The second time in Genesis that the younger twin takes precedence over the older. Perez is a predecessor to David. She is not presented as a model, but only more righteous than Judah, whose tribe would most likely have died out.

It is interesting that there are 4 women in Jesus' genealogy (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba). Isn't it ironic that all 4 are Gentiles? That all 4 had scandalous marriage situations? But this also prepares the way for Mary who would be accused of having a scandalous breach of betrothal. But the controversy of Mary was not that she had engaged in intercourse with another man not hers, but that she hadn't engaged in intercourse at all! Isn't it a wonderful testimony that God used 4 women, not of noble descent or even moral example, to fulfill his plan?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Too Long

It has been too long since I posted on this blog. Things have been busy.

I want to ease back into this role by posting two great quotes about preaching. What do you think of them?

"More people have been bored out of the Christian faith than have been reasoned out of it. Dull, insipid sermons not only cause drooping eyes and nodding heads, they destroy life and hope." -H.W. Robinson and T.W. Robinson (It's all in how you tell it)

or as Ralph Waldo Emerson described his own lectures
"fine things, pretty things, wise things, but no arrows, no axes, no nectar, no growling, no transpiercing, no loving, no enchantment."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Making a Difference in Preaching

Sorry it has been so long between posts. The ice storm we suffered really set me back in my work. There has been cleanup, then more cleanup, and still more to go. I have been working at West Kentucky Youth Camp cleaning downed trees and limbs and helping my dad with cleanup on his farm.

I want to use this blog to share a valuable book. I have been interested in biblical scholarship for almost ten years now. This love of scholarship often has drawbacks when it comes to presenting biblical material in a sermon. I must admit that I have struggled in the area of application for years. Recently, I was introduced to the Haddon Robinson style of preaching and I feel as if the Lord sent his writings to me. I recommend his book, "Making a difference in preaching." It has been out for about a decade, but the information in this book is timeless. He gives practical advice for developing the sermon from exegesis to exposition. He warns against the dangers of being too general and too specific. His big idea approach has really influenced my preaching in the last 2 months. It has truly helped my communication skills. I have since set out to transform my preaching style. The comments have been quite positive. I know we must keep in mind, as Robinson notes, that our members responses "are often little more than code words to get past the minister as he guards the door." But these comments are coming from members who either don't usually comment or are members who always are suspicious of preachers in general. When this type of member talks, there is something to listen to.

The secret to this method and this book is the philosophy of preaching. Once you have an ideology of preaching, what you hope to accomplish, and who your audience is, the rest falls into place.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

2009 Ice Storm

Where should I start? About 12 days ago the commonwealth of Kentucky was hit with a terrible ice storm. It was by far the worst thing I have ever seen. I could go on and on about the sounds of cracking timber, the tree that struck our house, the cold temperatures, long lines for food, people suffering. But there is one thing that I gained from this experience that I needed more than anything. This disaster has renewed my faith in people. I witnessed strangers giving their food to families without. I saw people cutting wood for the elderly to burn in stoves. I saw people driving great distances to buy generators, gas, and kerosene. I saw farmers using their equipment to clear roads. I saw people helping others clean up debris.
Last Tuesday night the Church of Christ Disaster Response team sent 15 generators to us to loan to those in the community without power. Mark and Laura Cremeams really came through and helped a lot of people. They also contacted Bro. Harvey and Earl Kennedy from south of Huntsville to come and cut trees for folks. Mark Rogers gets some credit for connecting us with them. On Thursday, Walter Steely from the Glendale Rd. congregation in Murray helped contact us with the Church of Christ Disaster Relief from Nashville. They sent a semi load of food and supplies totaling about $80,000 (10,000 boxes). This was a surprise and in about 2 hours we set up our small building for distribution. The local Emergency organization from town sent some National Guard troops to help us unload the truck along with the Boy Scouts. From 3p.m. to 10p.m. we distributed the whole truck load of supplies and food. Not only was this the greatest outreach our congregation has ever done, but the disaster relief truck might also have been the largest vehicle to ever make its way down the small corridor of Elm Street (the whole town gathered to watch that).
One last thing of amazement was the massive number and efficiency of the utility crews that arrived from all over the country to help. If only the government worked so efficiently. That is another point. FEMA is worthless. Private citizens, churches, and individuals can do more than the government. They have tried to get their hands into our work effort several times. If they do the food will end up in a warehouse instead of someone who needs it. Anyways, here are a few pics. I may post more later.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What is in a Name?

It is always fascinating to study the messages to the seven churches of Asia from the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Revelation. The Greek language reveals an interesting word play during the admonishment to the church at Sardis. Jesus says: "I know your deeds, you have a NAME for being alive, but you are dead." I highlighted "name" because that is what the original language says. The brethren there had become very lax in their faith. This was evidently a common problem among the residents there. In the 6th century BC, Cyrus had conquered the impregnable city when one of his soldiers climbed up the tall acropolis at an unguarded spot. 300 years later, Antiochus III was also able to capture the city because of negligent guards. It is interesting how Christ incorporated that information to make a spiritual point.

The remedy for their indolence is somewhat humorous considering the history of invasion. "Be alert!" Strengthen what remains before it dies and return to what you have received and heard and repent. But not everyone there is lifeless and impure. There are a few people ("names") in Sardis who are pure ("as indicated by the color "white"). Again the original language reveals the word "name" (3:4). The two uses of "name" form a wordplay. Christians in Sardis were a church in "name" only. If they did not correct this terrible unfaithfulness and laxity, they will lose even their "names" when they are blotted out of the Book of Life and their "names" are not recognized before the Father and his angels (3:5).

What is the lesson? There is an important reminder that the standards of the world and Christ are quite different. While people recognized the name of the Sardis church the Lord saw that all they had was a name and even it was in jeopardy. This begs the question, what is in a name?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Just Say NO to Canaanite Women!

I know its been a while since my last post. Things have been crazy during the holidays and getting ready for the arrival of our son. I found a little gem in Genesis 28 that may or may not be of interest. After Jacob's deception of Esau and Isaac, both Isaac and Rebekah agreed that Jacob must return to the family homeland to find a suitable wife. So Isaac blesses Jacob. This blessing is probably more like a final will. Then Isaac reaffirms the divine promise that Jacob should go to Paddan-Aram to find a wife and may his endeavor be fruitful for the nations.

In 28:6, we learn that Esau has witnessed this event and his reaction is quite interesting. He now understands that his marriage to Canaanite women does not please Isaac. His attempt at remedying the situation may just be fate or it may carry some symbolism. He decides that he will go on his own journey, just like Jacob, to marry again, this time within the family kinship. His choice is astounding. He goes to Ishmael and selects his daughter Mahalath. Esau was the first son, but was not the son of promise. How ironic is it that he goes to Ishmael, Abraham's first son, but not his son of promise. This is further evidence that God had special plans for Jacob even though all of the questions surrounding his selection may be hard for us to grasp.

As promised, this was nothing special, just an interesting little gem from the text.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What is the fear of the Lord?

The first seven verses of the book of Proverbs give us a lot of insight. The goal of the Proverbs is to produce wisdom, discipline, and understanding to those who are naive. The naive are those who are on the brink of adulthood. The Proverbs are designed to be a boot camp for wisdom. The word for 'Proverb' (mashal) is basically the same word as parable. The Proverbs require deep reflection as did the parables of Jesus. On a side note, there could be a connection to Jesus from these verses. Jesus and Solomon both descended from David and both enjoyed same style of instruction. But Jesus told his listeners that he was greater than Solomon (Matt. 12:42).

The purpose statement for proverbs is given in 1:7. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. What does it mean to fear the Lord? Do we fear offending him and ultimately being punished? Do we simply respect and revere him? Might I suggest we look to David for the answer to this question.

Psa. 51 is David's response to his sin with Bathsheba. In verse 11 and 12, David begged that the Lord not leave him. This plea is really powerful when we consider that David witnessed God abandon Saul. This context offers a powerful definition for fearing the Lord. Fearing the Lord is not fear the Lord's coming but fear of his leaving!!! This is where the road to godly wisdom begins!