The Edifying from the Boring

I just read what is usually considered one of the most boring sections of Scripture, the long description of the land as it is allotted to each tribe as their inheritance (Joshua 13-21).

Here is what I discovered:

- God usually gives us less than we want, and more than we can handle. Consider Joseph in Joshua 17:14ff. They complain that they don't have enough land. But it turns out they really do have enough, it's just filled with forests and foes to fight back. It wasn't that they didn't have enough. It was just hard work. We would rather complain about what God has given us than do the work of harnesses the raw resources God has given us to manage.

- Jerusalem is a city given to the tribe of Benjamin, originally. No one could drive the Canaanites out of that city until David finally does it. He does a lot of things that Saul (from Benjamin) should have done as king - like fight and defeat Goliath. And then when David, the youth from Judah, becomes the unquestioned king, he makes Jerusalem, of Benjamin, his capital. One point he makes is that Israel is less tribe-oriented now that she has a true king. David doesn't have to stay in his tribe, he is king of ALL God's people.

- "not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass" (Josh 21:45). Every tribe, every family, received a place, a plot of land to work. Psalm 16:6 - "The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance." No pushing or shoving in line was needed. God feeds and provides for ALL His people.


Sound Teaching, not Tickled Ears

With Joyce Meyer in town tonight and tomorrow, I appreciated Kevin DeYoung's comment on his recent trip to South Africa:

"The Dutch Reformed Church is weak and getting weaker, awash in theological liberalism and secular agendas. The black church is beholden to the false gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity and the worst kinds of syncretistic charismania. South Africa is “reached” with the gospel in a technical sense, but the need for good teaching and sound doctrine is tremendous....

"Christian publishers should consider what they are doing to further or frustrate the Great Commission. Everywhere we went we saw pastors and churches influenced by books coming out of America. Without much (that I could tell) in the way of indigenous theological writing and with (often) a great theological vacuum to fill, many South African leaders look to U.S. authors to fill the gap. When they get hold of Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, or some pragmatic book about ministry methods, the results can be disastrous for generations."


Losing more than we realize

Kevin DeYoung:
"If you believe homosexual behavior is wrong and gay marriage is a contradiction in terms, you are fast becoming, in the public eye, not simply benighted but positively reprehensible, like the last slave owner who refuses to get on the right side of history. I understand that Christians tire of the culture war, but it’s not a battle we started, and if (when?) we lose the debate on homosexuality we will lose much more than the gurus of tolerance let on....

"I care about the decisions of the Supreme Court and the laws our politicians put in place. But what’s much more important to me—because I believe it’s more crucial to the spread of the gospel, the growth of the church, and the honor of Christ—what happens in our churches, our mission agencies, our denominations, our parachurch organizations, and in our educational institutions. I fear that younger Christians may not have the stomach for disagreement or the critical mind for careful reasoning. We’re going to need a good dose of the fundamentalist obstinacy that most evangelicals love to lampoon. The challenge before the church is to convince ourselves, as much as anyone, that believing the Bible does not make us bigots, just as reflecting the times does not make us relevant."


On Feeling Important in the Grand Scheme of Things

"Conspiracy theories have an aesthetic appeal: they make us feel more important in the grand scheme of things than we are. If someone is going to all this trouble to con us into believing in something, then we have to be worth conning; and the impotence we all feel in the face of massive impersonal bureaucracies and economies driven not by democratic institutions so much as multinational corporations is not really the result of our intrinsic smallness and insignificance so much of our potential power which needs to be smothered. Such views play to our vanity; and, to be brutally frank, the kind of virtual solitary vice which so much solipsistic internet activity represents.

"Conspiracy theories don’t hold up, though. Nobody is that competent and powerful to pull them off. Even giant bureaucracies are made up of lots of small, incompetent units fighting petty turf wars, a fragmentation which undermine the possibility of the kind of co-ordinated efforts required to pull off, say, the fabrication of the Holocaust. History, humanly speaking, is a tale of incompetence and thoughtlessness, not of elaborate and sophisticated cabals. Evil, catastrophic evil, is not exceptional and brilliant; it is humdrum and banal; it does not involve thinking too much; it involves thinking too little."

Trueman is applying this to denial of the Holocaust or unconditional support of Israel.

It can also apply to geo-economic-political forecasting. We like to feel like we've got it figured out.
X is going to happen, so if I invest in Y, then I'm more secure.
Is God in control, or do we feel like we have to know what's going on?

While we ought to understand the times, like the men of Isaachar, we are not called to read tea leaves.


Review: The Hiding Place: 25th Anniversary Edition

The Hiding Place: 25th Anniversary Edition
The Hiding Place: 25th Anniversary Edition by Corrie ten Boom

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this to discern when to let my 11 and 10 year old read it. They just went through WWII history.

Corrie ten Boom lived in the Netherlands when the Nazi's occupied and sent Jews and collaborators to German concentration camps. Her father hid Jews and worked in other ways in the underground against the Nazis. They were caught and sent to the camps. Corrie's father and sister died there, but she was released and spoke widely of her experiences until her death in America in 1983.

This book is well written, interspersing story with lessons learned about how God works in our lives. The forward lists some of these lessons:

- handling separation
- getting along with less
- security in the midst of insecurity
- forgiveness
- how God can use weakness
- dealing with difficult people
- facing death
- how to love your enemies
- what to do when evil wins

There is an interesting exploration of lying and deception to preserve life before the Nazi threat. Corrie is upset in the moment that some of her friends or family will not lie, but she seems to learn the lesson that God will protect the truth-teller for maintaining the ninth commandment. My view differs: the Nazis did not have the right to the truth. Corrie when put upon by them did not need to feel guilty for withholding the truth from them. (This is not explored in depth, and I haven't read Corrie's other books, so I'm not sure I understand her perspective completely.)

That's a minor aside. Overall, this is a wonderful read to gain some historical perspective in our times. Corrie relates her father's wisdom endearingly, her own struggles honestly, her lessons learned from the Lord winsomely.

View all my reviews


Deeper than Law

As Abraham Lincoln once remarked, "Whoever moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions."

Imprimis, March 2013


Just Take It

Isaiah 9:6-7
"For unto us a Child is born, 
          Unto us a Son is given; 
          And the government will be upon His shoulder. 
          And His name will be called 
          Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, 
          Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
    7      Of the increase of His government and peace 
          There will be no end, 
          Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, 
          To order it and establish it with judgment and justice 
          From that time forward, even forever. 
          The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."

You know that moment on the holiday, when the work is done, the preparations are all made, the cooking is complete, and you’re about to sit down to the feast, the family is gathering – that’s what we’re waiting for.
In our long war against the serpent, we will one day hang up our weapons for good, sit down, and sigh with contentment.

Isaiah 9:6, that famous verse, for unto us a child is born – this is a birth announcement, or a wedding invitation. And we know how much preparation there is to do for a birth or a wedding. The beauty of it is that you don’t make your salvation happen by your work, your preparation. It’s already done – all you need to do is take it, like you take this cup every week. It’s prepared for you. All you have to do is sit down, look to Jesus, love Him, surrender to Him, give Him your guilt and shame to bear, look for Him to come again and restore us to health.


Christmas Confession

Every manger scene should have little figurines of Herod’s soldiers lurking in the background. The Christmas story is not a Kinkade painting, with no hint of trouble anywhere at all. The incarnation and birth of Christ came about to fix a huge mess, like what we saw in Newtown CT last Friday. It is a potent reminder of our fall into sin and the resulting devastation of mankind.
We like to say that Jesus is the reason for this season, and He is. But why did He come? The reason He came was to enter into our chaos and catastrophe, to take it all to hell, and to return with life and peace and joy.
The chaos and catastrophe is the result of our sin. I haven’t heard the backstory of the CT perpetrator yet, but we can be certain that sin has been a part of the story, reaping these consequences. And sin is part of our story, too. We have been the cause of conflict and strife in our own ways. Perhaps we have not sought to kill Jesus like Herod did, but we often pursue pleasure like Herod. Perhaps we aren’t tyrants desperately clinging to power, but our every sin tries to dethrone Jesus. Perhaps we have not personally given our okay to kill children like Herod, but our Supreme Court has. And we put ourselves before God and others with our every sin. Jesus came to forgive the repentant, judge the wicked, and fix this huge mess.

This reminds us to confess our sins. Please kneel as you are able.


Comfort and Joy

Matt 1:18-21
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Sermon theme – Jesus’ coming is news that brings comfort & joy

The angels comes and gives Joseph news of comfort and joy, too. He doesn’t know what to do about Mary. He had this ideal life planned, but now has to think about divorce before he is ever fully married. The angel brings comfort with the strange but true news that Mary is not at fault – God did this to her. It is enormously comforting to see your way clear through a difficult situation like this. And the Lord’s Table is meant as a means of comfort. Whatever difficulty you are going through, this bread and wine, this worship service, isn’t meant as a distraction from it, a leaving it behind for a while. This sacrament shows your way clear through it by showing You the God who is with You through it, and who takes You through. This brings comfort. It also brings the joy of salvation. Hebrew for Jesus is save. We have a savior. Here we see HOW Jesus saved us, by sacrificing His own body and blood. Here we see the joyful result of Jesus saving us: sitting, eating, and living together in love, joy and peace. May we know Christ’s comfort and joy through His Word and through this table today.