What I read in 2018 – Just the Highlights!

By “Highlights” I do not mean the kids’ magazine, that staple of my dentist’s office as a kid, but rather my favorite reads of the year. I read 104 books in 2018 as I pursued my goal of two books a week; this does not include daily Bible reading or magazines. One happy turn was that in 2018 I spent 7 months in the States, a short distance from the Ronks Public Library and also from the library in Lancaster Bible College. Karen and I also listened to a number of these titles as Audible books as we traveled around the Northeast.

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Unless I indicate otherwise, I would recommend all of these books.

THEOLOGY

Septuagint: Every year I form a group of Bible students on Facebook, where we push each other to read the Scriptures in the original languages. In 2019-2020 we are, Heaven willing, reading the entire Septuagint (known as the LXX) from cover to cover. This was the massive writing project of the rabbis, who between the 3rd-1st centuries BC rendered the Bible from a Semitic language, Hebrew, into Greek – they were apparently the first to undertake such a leap. We began the first week of 2019, and to prepare I read A Handbook to the Septuagint by Ottley; The Septuagint by Jennifer Dines.

Image result for septuagint text

Devotional: C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, is a series of sermons. One of them contains his famous statement, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. (more…)

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“A Disciple is basically an Imitator” [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 4]

In 1 Thessalonians 1:5b-7, Paul is still thanking God for the Thessalonians, and his thanksgiving sets the pace for the rest of the letter.

You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

And again in 2:14 –

For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews.

disciplesLet’s read some verses that use the word “disciple”. In the gospels we see the word “disciple”. Disciples are learners. When Jesus called his first disciples, he said “follow me”. Later on in Matthew 5:1b-2, “His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.”

But being a disciple is not just learning about Jesus or the kingdom of God; it means to learn to do what Jesus does (more…)

“How do we know God is at work in us?” Part B [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 3]

Paul has spoken about how he knows that the Thessalonians are genuine Christians: first of all, because they have the fruit of the Spirit. Words, yes, but also attitudes, actions, values that go beyond what we would expect from a human being, apart from Christ.

imagesYou can’t see the Spirit, but you can see what he does. Let’s start with v. 5 and later go to v. 4.

In v. 5 we read about “power, the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction.”

When Paul speaks of power and the Holy Spirit, he is usually talking of miracles that he performed.

2 Cor 12:12 – I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.

Rom 15:18-19a – I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.

In Macedonia, we assume that there were many miracles, although we have the record of only one, and that was in Philippi, not Thessalonica – the exorcism of the demon from the slave girl.

If there are miracles, Paul is saying, then God is at work. (more…)

What Would a Mother Do? [Studies in Thessalonians]

mom2013(please feel free to use this for a sermon on Mother’s Day, adding in stories of mothers you know)

Let’s take a stroll past the Mother’s Day card rack:

For Mother
For Mother, Sentimental
For Mother, Loving
For Mother, Humorous (that category is potentially hazardous)
For Mother, Respectful (these seem to be very carefully worded)
For Mother with a recorded message on digital chip.

Then in an effort to sell more cards, we run across a section: “for someone who is like a mother to me.” It’s a great idea: there are literal mothers, then there is a whole world of aunts, grandmothers, cousins, in-laws, dear friends, mentors, an army of women. (more…)

Persecution is NOT good for what ails the church (Part Two)

Spiritual growth comes through Spirit-power and direction, applied from the inside out as God rewrites our heart, soul and mind to conform to his righteousness. Revivals of history have come as the result of prayer and the Spirit’s power; most are absent of any persecution as a proximate cause: the Reformation, Great Awakening, the Wesleyan Revival, the Second Great Awakening, the Korean Revival, the Welsh Revival.

Read Part I: https://openoureyeslord.com/2013/03/26/persecution-is-not-good-for-what-ails-the-church/

And now, Part Two:

Therefore I propose Viewpoint B:

  • Tribulation is not a “good” but an evil, albeit one that can be turned to good use in the one who is faithful.
  • Therefore, Christians should not pray that persecution would come, hoping for a “bank shot” which will lead to revival.
  • If revival is what we want, we should pray for revival.
  • And finally: we should pray that persecution will NOT come; and that if it does come, that it will abate.

Here are some key Bible texts: (more…)

Persecution is NOT good for what ails the church (Part One)

Is persecution good for what ails the church? Here’s the word on the street:

Viewpoint A: Everyone knows that persecution purifies the church –

  • Therefore, if revival is to come, it will be through suffering.
  • Therefore, persecution is a good, a benefit.
  • Therefore, the committed Christian should pray for persecution to fall on their country.

Now, I know of no verse where Christians should hope for or pray for persecution. Nor is there a passage that says, “If you pray for revival, you’d better duck, God will send you tribulation.” Viewpoint A strikes me as one of those Bible interpretations which are, to use the British phrase, “too clever by half.” It’s similar to the one I’ve heard people say, that we shouldn’t pray for patience – after all, if we do, God will send trials on us! I’m stymied, how a Christian could balk at praying for a fruit of the Spirit, or imagine that God will use our sincere prayer in order to play a trick on us!

The Bible is clear, and 2000 years of history give the same message –

  • Revival comes with or without persecution.
  • That is, revival and persecution do not follow a strict cause and effect. Nor are they typically correlated.
  • If there is correlation, it’s the question of the chicken and the egg – sometimes persecution comes because the church is growing and lively.
  • Persecution does not necessarily result in purification or vitality.
  • Persecution may be an impediment to church growth as much as it is a spur to growth.
  • People who pray for, seek or volunteer for persecution are on thin ice.

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The evidence: (more…)

False teaching – a corrosive, toxic, contaminant

This is how false teaching arrives:

A man with a white lab coat and rubber mallet in his pocket protector arrives in order to “heal you.” And just think, you didn’t even know you were sick! Still, after hmms and haws, he pull a bottle of medicine from a pocket, holds your nose and chucks a spoonful down your throat.

At this point, you gag and retch and run to the sink, where you empty your stomach.

“Ah,” says he, “the case is worse than I had thought! A double dose is what you need!”

You swallow, and retch twice as violently as before and drop to your knees.

“It’s obvious that you stand in need of my remedy worse than most. A triple dose is called for!” You choke it down, falling prone on the floor, your face drained of color, wheezing and tear-streaked.

A peddler of strange elixirs, potions which cannot be bought in just any store; he’s a trickster, and he usually charges plenty for his wares – probably money, definitely a chunk of your soul.

Why must we defend true doctrine and reject the false? I hope it’s not just that we can satisfy our own fussiness. I’ve seen those who love to make things “even”, but for their own mental and psychological satisfaction, as Carl Sandburg wrote in a favorite poem of mine:

The abracadabra boys – have they been in the stacks and cloisters? Have they been to a sea of jargons and brought back jargons? They foregather and make pitty pat with each other in Latin and in their private pig Latin, very ofay. Do they have fun? Sure – their fun is being what they are… (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/238494)

Anal Retentive 5_3True doctrine is not ensuring that our system has all its “t”s crossed and “i”s dotted, nor ducks arranged in order of color and height. Truth speakers need not be pickers of nits or splitters of hairs. Rather, it is making sure that we follow God’s truth and avoid the “teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1): the Evil One oversees a factory with round-the-clock shifts, a production line of ideas to draw people away from God. The collection he’s brought out this year is nothing new; they’re old lies, spray painted with this season’s colors. (more…)

Can stay-at-home Dads be “real men”?

I guess I came in late for this controversy: from 2008 there’s a YouTube clip of a famous preacher and his wife, responding to the question: “What are your thoughts on stay-at-home dads if the woman really wants to work?”[1]

“Too many guys take too little responsibility” was part of the answer, one with which I fully resonate. We have a culture where men play at being boys well into their adult years. At a time when their fathers and grandfathers had buckled down to marriage and a job or were off fighting Nazis, some guys focus on playing the field or playing paintball until they’re, well, practically my age. The women are complaining, as they ought to be. These guys need to hear a Word about their behavior.

But let’s put them to one side, since the gist of their response was something else: If men are not the primary bread-winners in the family, they are not doing “what the Word says.” Parenting must be done principally by the mother, not just “anyone,” not even the father. The idea of a father staying at home to focus on raising children is a perverted idea, taken from our modern culture, not the Bible. These men are “conformed to this world.” Such behavior would even by “a case for church discipline.”

Okay, let’s see what the Word really says. (more…)

We should challenge all who need correction…young or old (1 Tim 5:1)

By Gary Shogren, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica
 
The Bible does not tell us to refrain from correcting our elders; this is a misunderstanding that arises from 1 Tim 5:1 KJV, “rebuke not an elder”. We should understand that there is more harshness implicit in “rebuke”; the NIV for example says “Do not rebuke an older man harshly”. Although we might also refrain from rebuking any Christian harshly, Paul pays special attention to situations where Timothy (thought of as youngish, probably around 40 years old) will have to correct older people. (more…)