Why did Jesus Christ die by crucifixion on Good Friday? What was the purpose of his death? Here's a video clip that creatively explains why the death of Christ -- along with his resurrection -- is the central focus of His followers. It's not about a morbid preoccupation with guilt; it's about experiencing forgiveness! From the creative folks at St-Helen's Church Bishopsgate in London. HT Justin Taylor.
Our family just began subscribing to National Geographic this fall, and so I was excited to see the December issue's cover story on the recent excavation and discovery of King Herod's tomb in Israel. The magazine does it's usual gold-standard job of providing beautiful photographs, drawings, and diagrams to accompany the article on Herod's architectural accomplishments, but then it flubs it up with a blatant inaccuracy regarding the infamous King of Judea. Contrary to the gospel account in Matthew 2:16-18, National Geographic claims that "Herod is best known for slaughtering every male infant in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus. He is most certainly innocent of this crime."
Has Matthew embellished his account of Jesus's birth by falsely accusing Herod of infanticide? Professor Craig Blomberg has penned an excellent rebuttal to NatGeo's assertion of Herod's innocence. His blog post reminds us that the New Testament record is indeed a reliable historical account of Jesus Christ's life and words. (HT: Justin Taylor)
Last Saturday we celebrated the wedding of our daughter, Audrey, to Chris Reid. What a wonderful day it was. Needless to say, we are very happy for them both. God bless you, Chris and Audrey! And to Chris we say, "Welcome to the family!" Here's our bunch surrounding the lovely bride and handsome groom, and thanks, Linzy, for the beautiful pix of Audrey and Chris.
"It's the stupid economy, stupid!" What's a follower of Jesus to do when the economy is in shambles? Here are some links that have helped me make some sense of the current situation...
Jim Martin got the ball rolling for me with this most important question.
Ira Glass and his crew at Public Radio's "This American Life" produced two terrific hour-long programs that discussed the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the so-called $700 billion bailout for the banking industry, which you can listen to or read the transcripts:
Dr. Al Mohler offers a balanced Christian perspective on the economy.
Matt Perman calls us to pray for the economy.
Justin Taylor interviews David Kotter, who earned an MBA, taught economics, and worked as a finance manager for Ford Motor Company on what to think about the banking crisis.
This is what I said to my church family about "Sleeping Well in Anxious Times."
"Many Christians, like most of the populace, believe the political structures can cure all our ills. The fact is, however, that government, by its very nature, is limited in what it can accomplish. What it does best is perpetuate its own power and bolster its own bureaucracies."
— Charles (Chuck) Colson, advisor to President Nixon, writer, and founder of Prison Fellowship
I've been thinking about Bob Dylan's song "Serve Somebody" this week as I studied Romans 6:15-23.
This preacher sure needs prayer! Here are some ideas of how you can pray for me and other preachers and teachers of the Scriptures, from Justin Childers. The most valuable thing you could give a pastor is your prayers. So in advance I say, "Thank You!" (HT: Justin Taylor)
As you may have noticed, I've not been too faithful feeding the blog monster lately. I've got lots of excuses. Suffice it to say that my plate is really full with preaching and pastoring at the Chapel and seminary classes: Church History II (Reformation to the Present) and Pastoral Internship. Hopefully there will be some interesting posts next week. Thanks for your patience.
So we finally finished putting on the new roof shingles yesterday a little while after lunch. It's been a good but hard week working on this project. Needless to say, it took much longer than I thought. It's now done, praise the Lord. We're waiting for a good, hard rain to see if there are any leaks.
I'm grateful to the Lord Jesus for several key blessings during our roofing experience. We had terrific weather. It got hot in the early afternoon, and a few of the days we had to stop because the new shingles warmed up and became soft. But we learned to go with the flow. We had no rain at all.
We had no injures other than a few minor blisters and scrapes. No one fell off the roof! No one was hit by falling objects other than a small piece of scrap shingles.
We had a great time working together. Believe it or not, I had help from 16 friends over the course of the week! And on top of that, Ben, Jeremiah, Luke, and Charissa also pitched in between their classes and work. Gracious Dawn provided lunch each day and made sure we were all drinking enough water and Gatorade. Sometimes it was just me and the kids working. On Labor Day there were 10 of us working on the roof! It was a bit chaotic at times, but the fellowship was fun. We Morgans couldn't have done it with the help of our friends. Here's a few photos from our roofing adventure. Just click on the picture to enlarge it...
They sure didn't teach me how to do this in Pastoral Theology class! Today, Friday, and Saturday, I and some friends will be replacing the shingles on our roof. Assuming we can put them on without injuring or killing ourselves and without causing the roof to leak, we should save more than half the cost of hiring a contractor to do it. The weather forecast looks promising for the next several days, so we should have the project completed by the end of the day Saturday, Lord willing.
Don Upchurch wanted to know if I had ever had Shingles before.
Update 8/31/07: Our first day went well. We (Bruce Fleharty, Don Upchurch, Steve Grim, my son Ben, and me) got a lot done. All the shingles were removed from the back half of the roof and large portion of the front side that's very steep. We spent a good bit of time unloading the shingles when they were delivered. So far it hasn't rained. Hard work + encouraging fellowship + accomplishment = a very good day.)
National Geographic magazine is reporting that redheads may become extinct within 100 years. (Hat tip: Joe Carter)
A funny story about Chelsea Clinton and the marine. Appropriate for all political stripes. (HT: Scot McKnight)
Meet Blinky, the two-headed calf. (HT: Relevant)
A mass-baptism by fire...hose! Gives new meaning to "sprinkling."
And now to lend a little (very little) culture to this humble blog...Abbott and Costello meet Shakespeare: "Who is in the primary position?" (HT: James Wilson)
Joe Carter over at Evangelical Outpost has written a 60-second review of the new Outdoor Bible which, its publisher claims, is designed to withstand rain, snow, and mud. Ideal for backpackers, hunters, boaters, and anyone else who likes all-weather adventures outside, the Outdoor Bible is printed on plastic, water-resistant paper using what the publisher calls "Dry-Text technology," and it folds up like a map. It comes only in the New American Standard version of the New Testament and costs $34.95, which seems a little expensive to me. Bardin and Marsee Publishing, maker of the Outdoor Bible, is also coming out this month with a KJV New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs in what they call a "DuraBook" format. From the publisher...
THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® is printed on 100% plastic material, which makes it a fully waterproof Bible. It can be rained on, snowed on, or fully submerged in a body of water – with no damage.
THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® is made to withstand the rigors of the outdoors – whether used on a backcountry trail, a boating trip, or at a park with your family – THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® will endure your chosen adventure.
THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® will maintain its form during everyday handling and is resistant to typical outdoor wear and tear.
I can see the benefits of having a waterproof Bible. During hunting season I carry an inexpensive pocket-sized paperback New Testament with some 3x5 cards and a pen, and as I sit and wait for deer to come by, I read. It's also a good time to do scripture memory work. If I get any insights or ideas as I read and think, I write them down. My trusty NIV New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs is tattered, dog-eared, wrinkled, and stained, but it has been with me in all kinds of weather situations.
A thermos of coffee, a Snickers bar and a sandwich, and a Bible in the woods...it can be a blessed time.
New Testament scholar Ben Witherington has posted a brief introduction to the art of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics). You can read his helpful article here. With a good bit of humor, Dr. Witherington emphasizes three key principles necessary for understanding a Bible passage in a way that is true to the text: "What it meant is what it means," "Context is king," and "Genre matters." Taken together, all three can guide us safely to a correct understanding of what God is saying in a section of Scripture.
I also recommend the classic book, How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, to those interested in sharpening their Bible interpretation skills. This book ought to be part of your personal library.
Want to score 30 runs in a baseball game? Just play the Orioles. Can you believe this one?!? The Texas Rangers pummeled/defeated/thumped/demolished/embarrassed/crushed the Baltimore Orioles 30-3 in the first game of a double-header yesterday. It reminded me of something you'd see in Little League. The Rangers broke a 110-year-old record for the most runs scored in a game. Ouch and double-ouch for us Baltimorons!
Okay, so I've been a real shlub this summer, not posting at all on the Bible Blog. There have been a couple of big reasons for my absence from the Blogosphere, and most of them dwell inside my head. They deal with my personal expectations and motivations for writing, and I'm working through them. I know you don't read this blog to hear my whining, so I'll quit now. Recently, I received some encouragement to get back to the keyboard and start posting again. So here goes.
I've been preaching on the life of David from 1 Samuel this summer, and it has blessed me to revisit the life of this man after God's own heart. In spite of all of his flaws--which are so much like mine--David tried to live his life on the same page as Yahweh. I've learned a lot from Bill Arnold's commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel in the NIV Application Commentary series, as well as Ralph Klein's in the Word Biblical Commentary set. Both gave me much exegetical help. But the best resource I found on David's life was Eugene Peterson's Leap Over A Wall, which is a collection of meditations based on David's adventures which explore "earthly spirituality for everyday Christians." Highly convicting and encouraging. I recommend this book to everyone!
When my Greek 4 class finished at the beginning of June, I made a commitment to spend 15 minutes reading five lines of the Greek NT five days per week. So I worked through Galatians, and was blessed as I moved slowly through Paul's letter of freedom. "For freedom Christ set us free!" Galatians will probably show up in my teaching sometime this next year. I hope I can daily live in the freedom Christ has purchased for us.
As a father and husband I enjoyed going to Ocean City for a week with Dawn and our three younger offspring. We did a lot of surf-fishing, sun-burning, putt-putting, book-reading, bike-riding, and friend-visiting. Dawn found an incredible bargain online for the condo we stayed in, so we even saved money! I only regret that the week was so short. We really had a great time together.
Two educational opportunities helped sharpen my ministry saw this summer. One was a class on "Biblical Preaching in a Post-Modern Culture" taught by Don Sunukjian who was a visiting professor at Columbia Biblical Seminary. This course has forced me reexamine how I handle the Bible as a preacher, especially in presenting its relevance. Sunukjian's system has been extremely beneficial though difficult to implement in my week-to-week sermon preparation. I also really appreciated this year's edition of the Leadership Summit. I went with eight other folks from Littlestown Chapel, including Dawn. It was a blessing to have her with me, and we've had some interesting conversations over what we learned.
So...what have you been up to this summer?
The War on Terror. Global warming. Iraq. Palestine. WMDs. MAD. Earthquakes. Famines. Katrina. Tsunami. Chaos, catastrophes and calamities. The world's a sad, sad place.
Yet in spite of all of this, be at peace and be encouraged because Jesus is in charge and He's coming back.
I don't mean to trivialize any human suffering. Read Luke 21:5-38 and think about what Jesus has predicted will happen. As you thoughtfully read this chapter, what discourages you? What do you see that gives you hope? How should you and I respond to Jesus' prophecy of his second coming?
The bottom line is this: the human race cannot destroy itself and this planet. The End will occur when Jesus returns. Until then we must work for peace and justice and protect the environment as stewards of God. But remember that we cannot annihilate ourselves into extinction.
Of all the things Christ could have preached about during his last week on earth, why do you think He chose to talk about the End Times? ("The Olivet Discourse" -- as this passage is known since it was taught from atop the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem -- was given just a few days prior to the Last Supper and Jesus' crucifixion.)
What a feeling of relief when we know we've been forgiven! Now what are we supposed to do?
Think about how various people reacted to Jesus healing the paralyzed man in Luke 5:24-26. Why did the man continually praise God? What was he grateful for? Do you think fully realized that he had been not just healed but also forgiven? Notice Luke’s colorful language to describe the crowd’s response: “amazement took them all” (literal translation). What did the crowd of onlookers say? How did they respond? Why were they afraid?
Compare Colossians 1:10-14 and Ephesians 4:31-32. How should Christians respond when we know that we have been forgiven? Forgiveness inspires worship and more forgiveness. Pass it on.
Jesus calls himself “the Son of Man” in Luke 5:24. Compare Daniel 7:13-14. What do you think is the significance of this title Jesus uses for himself? Notice that Jesus claims as the Son of Man to have authority on the earth among human beings to forgive sins. Compare these other passages in Luke’s gospel (a few of the many) where Jesus calls himself “the Son of Man” –- Luke 6:5, 12:8-10, 12:40, 18:31, 19:10, 21:27-28, 22:67-71. You can see that “Son of Man” was a favorite title Jesus used for himself. What do you think the religious leaders understood Jesus to mean when He called himself “the Son of Man”? What do you think Jesus himself meant when He said He was “the Son of Man”?
“Son of Man” was a term that both revealed and concealed that He was and is the Messiah. He used it in reference to his earthly ministry, his suffering, and his glorious return. As the Son of Man, Jesus is indeed a man – the Unique Man – through whom God is now working.
Let’s think about what forgiveness is. At its root, the word simply means to release or separate. To forgive doesn’t mean to ignore, forget, or feel pity for. Forgiveness requires a choice, an act of the will to let the offense go. It does not depend on the offender’s merit; it’s undeserved. It means to release the offender from the penalty he deserves to suffer for his sin and suffer it in his place. Consider these verse about Jesus’ forgiveness…
Compare Jesus forgiving the paralyzed man to another story of His offering forgiveness, found in Luke 7:36-50. Jesus declared her sins forgiven, no strings attached. Like this sinful woman, the paraplegic received God’s forgiveness because he repented and believed. Jesus released him from his moral and legal obligation due to his sinning. In Luke 23:23 Jesus makes it clear that all human beings need forgiveness, and his death on the cross makes that possible.