Friday, August 31, 2012

Books for late Summer 2012 (late July thru August)

This list starts with the books I read during our vacation in late-July, and finishes out the summer.

Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open RoadThrough Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What hasn’t heard of Donald Miller in the last 6 or 8 years? After hitting the scene with the still-popular Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, he continues to be a known and respected writer in the Christian sub-culture.

I own Blue Like Jazz, but I’ve never read it. Through Painted Deserts was my first Donald Miller memoir; perhaps that’s fitting, since it is essentially a re-edited edition of HIS first Donald Miller memoir, Prayer And The Art Of Volkswagen Maintenance. It’s clear to me now why he’s so popular: Miller is a skilled, engaging writer who uses words descriptively and economically. Thus, at the end of the book you don’t feel like your time has been wasted; rather, you feel that you’ve been treated to some time with a gifted story-teller.

Through Painted Deserts is Miller’s tale of a road-trip, a season of introspection, a consideration of love, and the testing and probing of faith. There’s something a bit cliché about some of these memes, yet there's enough that is fresh and/or well-told that would lead to giving up on it. A few moments suggest hyperbole, but most of what he offers is plausible through the gritty and honest portrayal.

I liked Through Painted Deserts fine, and the fact that I got a copy for free (during an Amazon Kindle promotion) helped me like it a bit more — at least, I never had to wonder, why did I spend my money on this one? I don’t think I would have thought that anyway; the book was good enough, though not great enough to live up to the Donald Miller hype.

I’ll likely read another Miller memoir, as I enjoyed his writing enough to give one of his better-known titles a try.

Prophet Of The SunProphet Of The Sun by Russell Blanchard Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Russell Smith presents, in Prophet of the Sun a fun, engaging tale of a man searching for purpose, and finding it among the tangled knots of intrigue and adventure. Pulling together honest struggles of faith, tensions of betrayal and true friendship, and a knowledge of history and archaeology, Smith offers a story that any reader will find enjoyable and satisfying.

As a pastor, I can relate to the protagonist Calvin Poteat, himself a Presbyterian minister. Cal spends an evening with a life-long friend, and suddenly finds himself in a fast-paced and challenging puzzle. Russell Smith makes able use of his expertise in ancient eastern cultures, yet, it is done in a manner that isn’t ostentatious or showy. Anyone with the least interest in history will find the many real-life truths both intriguing and useful to advance the story. Smith also folds in many clever references to popular culture — enough, in fact, that a fan could create a reader’s game, of sorts, in which one spots for pop culture references.

I liked Prophet of the Sun a lot, and it was a perfect book to read during vacation: playful and entertaining without leaving me feeling as though I had wasted time.

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on FaithTraveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life years ago, I was familiar with Anne Lamott’s delightful writing style, and thought Traveling Mercies would be a good one to take on vacation. I was right.

Lamott tells of her coming to faith, and of her ongoing struggles with faith, in this memoir. It is fresh with honesty and frankness, almost to a fault; her sometimes-coarse language may make many fellow believers squeamish. Nevertheless, it is an encouraging read for believers who may struggle to know whether they are the only ones who doubt, fear, yell at their kids, find subtle hints of God’s presence uplifting, wrestle to know how to pray, or feel sadness when others may think the grief should have passed; they are not. Anne Lamott reveals herself to us as a kindred spirit in these.

A friend asked me recently about Lamott, particularly because some of her views and beliefs are on the, shall we say, far-left side of the path of orthodoxy. Was she missing something, my friend asked? Well, set aside the more obvious hints of syncretism, the liberal politics, the feminist streak, and the open adoration of her female pastor — all of which might make many evangelicals squirm — and you have a sister in Christ who’s not that different from you. Truth is, most American Christians have their own hints of syncretism, embrace of theologically-liberal ideas that suit our preferences, and social/political opinions that she hold more closely than perhaps we ought; it’s only that most of us do a good job of keeping these secret and hidden.

Anne Lamott sees no need for such pretense. As a result, Traveling Mercies will show us someone who we recognize as both familiar and, at times, a bit more unvarnished than we think is polite. But I think most of us could use a little more of that.

Steve JobsSteve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven’t read very many biographies; to be perfectly frank, I’m not much of a history buff, and most biographies are either about celebrities (no interest there) or people from history (not much more interest there). Thus, I confess it is a genre of books I’m relatively new to, and if Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs is any measure, I like it a lot.

Perhaps at the other end of the interest-spectrum from history is, for me, Apple Co. and Steve Jobs. I grew up in a world where we learned to program Basic on Apple IIe computers in elementary school, and learned to type on them in middle school. I’ve been a Mac user since the very early 90s, and our house is full of Apple devices; I’ve also done some professional consulting for Apple users, and followed the company with interest for years. I always appreciated Jobs’ flair for creative products and creative announcements of them, and admired him (though not uncritically) as a business leader.

Because of all of this, I knew much of the most skeletal outlines of this book, but having the gaps filled in with details was rich and fascinating. Isaacson is a masterful biographer, and organized the material wonderfully; his writing style is also skilled and engaging. Jobs was such an iconic leader in so many ways that, naturally, his story is interesting to read.

Marcie asked me whether she would like it; I told her that, if she ever wanted to get inside my longstanding fascination with Apple and Jobs, this book would help her connect the dots. With that said, I don’t think she would read it— nor would she necessarily enjoy it if she did. This book isn’t for everyone, by any stretch. It is sort of like taking a road trip across the country in a coupe: only those with a certain amount of affection and interest for one another will be able to handle the whole trip. Likewise, if you are indifferent toward Jobs or Apple, you probably won’t make it across the Mississippi.

For fans, connoisseurs, and admirers of Apple products or Steve Jobs, however: you will find this book quite satisfactory.

We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of IdolatryWe Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G.K. Beale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one is both thorough and rich; as a biblical theology should be, Beale looks long and hard at what the Bible says about idolatry and idol-worship, and especially how it is formative to our souls, how it shapes our lives and our understanding of the world around us.

Beale’s grasp of biblical theology doesn’t need my endorsement — clearly he is accomplished and skilled at both understanding and teaching the Scriptures to us. No less so in We Become What We Worship: Beale is attentive to be exhaustive, or as close as one can get, to examining every passage that contains a whiff of teaching on idolatry. Meanwhile, he is so personable and readable as he does so; the book is written in first-person, which is a departure from standard academic style in nonfiction texts, but it serves well to allow his pastoral voice to really shine through.

Someone looking only at the title, or who failed to consider the nature of a book self-described as a “biblical theology,” might believe that they would be picking up a book full of guidance on both how we are idolaters (which would be correct) AND how we might worship rightly and with God as the object of our worship (which would be, well, less correct). Beale IS instructive at points, and more directly toward the end, in a more positive construction of right worship. Nevertheless, this IS a biblical theology, and its focus is on idolatry.

I found much to take away from Beale’s book, and several good “reflection quotes” that I’ll use in my preaching. Anyone with a serious interest in studying Scripture would find this book both profitable and easy to read.

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of SortsJesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts by Ian Morgan Cron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, I enjoyed this memoir-ish book (the author himself disclaims that it’s not exactly a memoir, in that it contains accounts that may be inaccurate due to the fact that he was four when the events happened!) and found it a worthwhile read.

As a fellow reader has remarked, he deals with troubles in his own past including an alcoholic parent, difficulties with alcoholism and drug abuse in his own life, and other troubles — but he handles these fairly indirectly, rather than giving a play-by-play or a rehashing of every time his drunk father abused him, etc. Thus, those looking for a detailed account of alcoholism in a family will be disappointed.

Likewise, despite the title, the book is not about the CIA, not really. His father’s involvement with the CIA plays into the account peripherally, but had it been omitted entirely then the thrust of this book would not have missed it.

What you DO get in this book is a good look at a troubled kid wrestling with truths — family truths, personal truths, spiritual truths — as he grows and deals with his own humanity and that of those around him. This author is an engaging writer and develops his own story well, with honesty and even frankness at times. He has the tendency to occasionally digress (in order to tell back-story, for example) for longer than is helpful to maintain the original stream of thought. Nevertheless, he has an enjoyable voice and writing style, and I would read more by him given the opportunity. I look forward to checking out his book Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale.

Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before (and After) You MarrySaving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before (and After) You Marry by Leslie Parrott III

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Marcie and I got married, this was the book (along with the corresponding workbooks) that our pastor used for pre-marital counseling. Ever since I started doing pre-marital counseling, it’s the book that I’ve used, as well. I am finishing up another round of pre-marital counseling this week, and thus I’ve re-read to book again.

The Parrotts (husband and wife writing team) work through several vital questions that, I can say with some experience, are indeed important questions for setting a marriage on a healthy course. The chapters addressing each question are full of very practical illustrations and examples, and also are chock-full of advice and direction on how to handle the particular matters at hand in a healthy way. The book itself has a useful set of discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and then there are also breaks throughout the chapters pointing the reader to complete a correlated exercise in the workbook. In all, the material is very practical and straightforward to use.

On top of that, there is a leader’s guide and a DVD available, so it could easily be adapted for small group use, and obviously I’ve found it works well in the context of pre-marital counseling also. All in all, I commend Les and Leslie Parrott for writing and assembling a strong battery of materials for helping marriages get off to the best start possible.

Most of the examples and illustrations in the book are personal ones from the writers’ own experiences, which is fine and even brings a sense of vulnerability to the book. Frequently, though, the way these are presented — or at times other parts of the material — is a little corny, and were it not for the disarming nature of their writing style might feel even condescending. Also, while it seems clear from a handful of markers that the writers are Christians, it also seems clear that their editors wanted to produce a set of materials that would sell on a broader market; consequently, there are a lot of missed opportunities when it comes to presenting solid, biblical truths that correspond to the points they are making.

Indeed, the books’ persistent erring on the side of the practical and universal keeps me from simply loving it/them as my pre-marital counseling curriculum. It seems like every other time I do pre-marital counseling, I look around for something better, but I haven’t found it yet. I would love to assign TWO books, including this one and one of several others (each of which tackles the more deeply spiritual and theological side of this topic well, but miss the more practical aspects that the Parrotts do so well); alas, it usually feels like asking too much to request that an engaged couple do even one.

I do like these books for what they are; my rating is, in part, a reflection of my frustration about pre-marital counseling materials in general.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sermons for September. 2012

Starting in September, we will begin a new sermon series at Dove Mountain Church: for the next several months, we’ll be considering the topic of “Worship” and how God would teach us about worship from His Word. Here’s the list of the first months’ worth of sermons from this series:

  • 9/2/2012 — Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (We Worship What We Love)
  • 9/9/2012 — Psalm 86 (Why We Worship)
  • 9/16/2012 — Hebrews 4:1-16 (What Happens when We Worship, 1: Ascension into Heaven)
  • 9/23/2012 — Leviticus 9:1-24 (What Happens when We Worship, 2: Covenant Renewal)
  • 9/30/2012 — Psalm 115 (What Happens when We Worship, 3: The Work of Worship)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Revisiting "Inconsistency and Sharia Law" — the Todd Akin test case

About a year ago, I blogged about the Christian culture's inconsistency with regard to the restriction of "Sharia" law (a critique that is generally true about political conservatives, too). I want to come back to that topic, and demonstrate a bit further what I mean by it.

I said then that, "where my concern is today is that the broader laws, restricting any reference to "foreign" laws, are problematic in their inconsistency" and later claimed that, "the problem is that the laws being passed that restrict any reference to 'foreign' laws implicitly do two things at once: first, they erect a view of religious law as inherently "foreign…" [and] second, they establish a precedent that reference to religious law has no place in a constitutionally-sound court system— or alternatively, anyone who is informed by their religious laws is unfit to serve in the courts."

I concluded that, "if 'foreign laws' include Sharia, which is derived from the Quran, then it is only a matter of time before they also include, by definition, the 10 Commandments or any other ethical structure based on the Bible." It is this conclusion that I want to focus my attention upon today.

Perhaps you caught wind of the recent political gaffes of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, who is currently contending for a Senate seat in Missouri. Rep. Akin, a conservative and a Christian who, in expressing his opinion that pregnancy was not often a consequence of rape, made a few unfortunate comments that suggested both that he believed that some rape was legitimate and that women have a unique biological defense against pregnancy in such cases. Rep. Akin later apologized for his comments, and essentially recanted his statement — at least insofar as it suggested these particular claims.

Cutting to the heart of the matter: Rep. Akin was responding to a direct question about whether women who become pregnant by being raped should have the option of abortion. His clear position — and that of many other conservatives, including many Christians — is that abortion is never an ethical option or choice. This position is the result of his convictions as a Christian about the sanctity of life and the unethical nature of abortion. These, too, are shared by many conservatives and Christians.

Rep. Akin doesn't hide his connection to my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, nor the fact that he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, the PCA's denominational seminary (and the same institution that I graduated from. These are plainly noted on his campaign website, in the "Bio" section.

The connection of Rep. Akin's faith and convictions, and his PCA background and affiliation, to his position on abortion — and, indeed, to his statement, however poorly expressed, in that interview — has not escaped the notice of the media. Indeed, more than one article noted these as contributing factors; and, I would point out, it has not been noted favorably.

One article in particular ("The Theological Roots of Akin's 'Legitimate Rape' Comment" by Sarah Posner, posted on the Religion Dispatches website) goes into detail about the PCA's position papers on "Man's Duty to Protect Woman" (approved by the 2001 General Assembly, speaking to women's service in the military) and on abortion (approved in 1978 by the General Assembly), even quoting sentences and paragraphs from them. Apart from some mild editorializing amongst the quotes and summaries, Posner does not misrepresent the PCA's positions, though she clearly disagrees with them — which is her right.

It is her final conclusion about the matter that gives me pause:
This is not a situation where Akin sat in the pews of the church of a controversial pastor, or once attended a conference or seminar where controversial views were discussed. Akin has a Masters [sic] in Divinity from the PCA’s seminary, and proudly claims he took a political rather than a pastoral path after seminary. His denomination has not only opposed abortion in all cases, including rape, but has suggested that the number of pregnancies by rape is overstated, and even questioned the veracity of rape claims. And Akin, who in a few months could be a United States Senator, wants his religion to dictate our laws.

Did you catch that? Her essential concern isn't so much that Akin holds the views that he does, nor that he derives them from the theological positions of his church. Rather, her concern is about how much his religious views and convictions might shape his service as a Senator.

Sound familiar? This is basically a re-articulation of the exact same concerns that Christians and others espoused about Muslim judges and their belief in the continuing validity of Sharia law. In other words, pretty much what I warned about a year ago. Don't think this an isolated case, either — (far from an esoteric or unpopular news source) also picked up on the connections.

I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; to draw the conclusions I did doesn't require prophecy, just consistency. Christians need to be FOR freedom of religious expression, even when it is the expression of other religions. If we dare to target others in this way, don't think for a second that we won't be next.

Monday, August 20, 2012

On Officer Nominations

[From Pastor Ed… August 19 and 26]

Last month, we closed nominations for new officers for our congregation. At the beginning of June, we invited the congregation to submit their nominations, and we left the nomination time open until mid-July.

These nominations are nothing to take lightly: the Bible has much to say about who should be officers in the church, and what qualifications they should possess. Especially, 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 contain much in the way of instructions for how we are to understand good officer-nominees. Likewise (though not with the same authority), our denomination's Book of Church Order (AKA, the BCO) has a good deal to offer in terms of what the offices (Elder and Deacon) require, and who is fit to serve in them.

Therefore, we had a nomination form that listed these Scripture references, and also included the full text from the BCO describing the offices; then we asked that nominations be offered, including a summary of how the nominee is considered to be qualified, based on these descriptions. We were grateful to receive a number of nominations, with several Deacon-nominees and a few Elder-nominees.

What Happens Next

The Session has received the nominations, and begun to consider them. Our BCO charges the Session with stewarding these nominations, and seeing them through to completion. There are a handful of potential outcomes:

  • Some nominations may not be accepted, for various reasons. In my congregation in Tennessee, there was a couple who had attended the church for years, and were quite active; he was quick to lend a hand to others, and frequently involved in service ministries. However, they had never joined the church! Therefore, though he would often receive a nomination as a Deacon, those nominations couldn't be accepted. There may be some circumstances among the nominees at Dove Mountain Church that are similar, and we will notify the nominating party (or parties) about this.
  • Some nominees will decline their nominations. Obviously, sometimes life circumstances or other factors will prevent someone from being able to serve when they are asked; this is the case also for officer nominations. We are asking the nominees that we have accepted to defer the decision to accept or decline their nomination until after they have completed officer training; this way, we hope the nature of the office to which they've been nominated will be clearer, and thus they will better discern whether God might be calling them to serve in that capacity.
  • Some (we hope, most!) nominations will move into training. Our intention is to take accepted nominees through several months of officer training (more on this in a minute), preparing them for the offices to which they have been nominated.

Officer Training & Examinations

In September, we will begin training our officer-nominees in a training program that will take three months to complete. I will be conducting the training, while relying heavily on the other Elders to help with training, provide input during the discussions, offer examples and case-studies, and so forth.

This training will consist mainly of three topics: "The Character of the Officer" will consider the texts I listed above — 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 — and other biblical texts that speak specifically to the man and his character. "The Theology of the Officer" will focus on what we believe the Bible teaches, and how our beliefs shape and inform our offices. Finally, "the Work of the Officer" will round out our discussions with discussions about what we are called to do, and how we are biblically required to do it.

Following this season of training, each nominee will be asked whether they accept their nomination, and if they do then they will be examined for the office (or, perhaps, offices — if someone has been nominated for both offices!) they have been nominated. Once again, the BCO offers specific guidelines about what the nominees shall be examined on (in chapter 24, part 1): his Christian experience, especially his personal character and family management; his knowledge of Bible content; his knowledge of the system of doctrine, government, and discipline contained in the Constitution of our denomination (which consists of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Book of Church Order of the PCA); the duties of the office to which he has been nominated; and his willingness to give assent to the questions required for ordination (see below for these).

Officer Candidates

Those nominees who accept their nomination and pass this examination will then be submitted to the congregation as candidates for office. If everything goes according to schedule, we will present a slate of officer-candidates in December, one month in advance of a called congregational meeting to elect officers.

During that month, the congregation should consider this slate of officer-candidates closely and prayerfully. If there is someone on the list that you do not know — or that you have little or no knowledge about, in terms of their leadership or service among our congregation — we would encourage you to seek them out and learn more about them. These men will be ordained to office in Christ's church, and will be charged with the care, shepherding, and oversight of our congregation! It is no small matter to consider.

It is conceivable, too, that someone on the slate of candidates is known to you in ways that might suggest that they are unfit for the office to which they've been nominated. While we hope that this would not happen, it is another reason why we give the notice about officer elections that we do. Should this be the case, we trust that you would talk to the candidate, seeking clarity about your perceptions and, if you believe it necessary, urging him to reconsider the acceptance of the nomination. (And, of course, if you believe him to be in sin and obstinately so, should he not listen to your urgings then we would want you to come to the Session to discuss your concerns.)

Election, Ordination, & Installation

In January (again, if all goes according to plan!), we will have a congregational meeting in which we will elect officers. This is done by vote, and usually by paper ballot. We must have a "quorum" of our congregation present (¼ of resident communing members) to vote properly, and a majority of those present is required to duly elect officers. However, if a large minority is opposed to the election of a particular individual, our BCO says, "the moderator shall endeavor to dissuade the majority from prosecuting it further."

Those who are elected will then be ordained to their office, if they have never served in that office before. We'll do this as part of a worship service in one of the following weeks. Likewise, all new officers (whether ordained then or previously) will also be installed, using the following vows:

  1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
  2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will, on your own initiative, make known to your Session the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?
  3. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of biblical polity?
  4. Do you accept the office of ruling elder (or deacon, as the case may be) in this church, and promise faithfully to perform all the duties thereof, and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your life, and to set a worthy example before the Church of which God has made you an officer?
  5. Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?
  6. Do you promise to strive for the purity, peace, unity, and edification of the Church?

The congregation will also be asked to take a vow! It is as follows:
Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon), and do you promise to yield to him all that honor, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord to which his office, according to the Word of God and the Constitution of this Church, entitles him?

This is the process that is to come! It's exciting and gratifying to see new officers established in the Church, and I ask you to join me in praying over the coming months for these things to be fruitful.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Christian’s Love for the Human Race

“We ought to embrace the whole human race without exception in a single feeling of love; here there is no distinction between barbarian and Greek, worthy and unworthy, friend and enemy, since all should be contemplated in God, not in themselves. When we turn aside from such contemplation, it is no wonder we become entangled in many errors.

Therefore, if we rightly direct our love, we must first turn our eyes not to man, the sight of whom would more often engender hate than love, but to God, who bids us extend to all men the love we bear to Him, that this may be an unchanging principle: Whatever the character of the man, we must yet love him because we love God.”

~ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, John T. McNeill, ed, Ford Lewis Battles, trans, Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960 [1559]), 2.8.55.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Praying for Dove Mountain Church

Over the coming months, Lord willing, Dove Mountain Church will be preparing for some significant changes: we’ve voted as a congregation to seek a new location, more permanent than meeting at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, that would allow us an established worship space and to facilitate ministries throughout the week.

Members of our congregation ask me about this often, and the questions are usually in one of two forms: Is anything happening with our move? and, How could I be involved in it?

The answer to the first is always fluid; some weeks it seems like nothing happens, and others exciting things happen. We’re still looking for a place that would suit us, and it is proving harder than we hoped. We are undaunted, however, and hope to see concrete fruit of our labors soon.

The answer to the second is almost always the same: PRAY! Sometimes this is obviously unsatisfying, but it is nevertheless the best way that ANY interested party could be involved.

To encourage prayer for our congregation — and especially for our transition — I prepared a guide of suggested prayers, and distributed it this past Sunday. Here are some ways you could pray daily for Dove Mountain Church…

General Prayers

Sunday: Outreach / New Believers

  • For members’ opportunities to invite friends to church
  • For the unconverted to come to faith through our ministries
  • For new believers to engage in healthy discipleship

Monday: Established Ministries

  • For God to guide us in wisdom as we minister to one another
  • For those involved in our ministries to grow spiritually
  • For those who lead to be effective & faithful in leadership

Tuesday: Community Involvement Opportunities

  • For our congregation to be known & valued by our community
  • For the effectiveness of members who serve in our community 
  • For new opportunities to serve and embrace our community

Wednesday: Officers (Pastor, Ruling Elders, Deacons)

  • For our Deacons to minister and serve our congregation well
  • For our Elders to lead and shepherd faithfully
  • For Pastor Ed’s preaching, teaching, counseling, & prayer ministries

Thursday: Future Ministries

  • For wisdom about new opportunities & endeavors
  • For open doors to develop relationships with partner ministries
  • For able leadership & sustained growth of new ministries

Friday: Financial Provision

  • For sustenance & increasing faith & faithfulness of our body
  • For God’s abundant provision for our needs
  • For wise & capable stewardship of the resources we have

Saturday: Corporate Worship

  • For our collective preparation for worship
  • For our communion with God to be rich & renewing
  • For those who will lead in worship to be ably prepared

Transition Prayers

Sunday: Growth in Outreach
  • For a new facility to increase our opportunities for outreach
  • For new relationships in local communities unto Gospel ministry
  • For sustained growth numerically for the sake of the Gospel
Monday: Extension of Ministries
  • That a new facility would extend our existing ministries effectively
  • For our “place” to become a means to deeper discipleship
  • For ministry leaders to know how to wisely utilize facilities
Tuesday: Deeper Community Involvement
  • That a “permanent” location would open new doors in the community
  • For new connections & relationships with surrounding-area businesses, organizations, & churches
  • That we would become known as a church “for” our community
Wednesday: Wisdom in Direction
  • For discernment as we consider possible locations & buildings
  • For guidance, leadership, & provision from God
  • That negotiations would go smoothly & settle quickly
Thursday: New Ministry Opportunities
  • That new discipleship ministry opportunities would arise
  • For the building up of our congregation through transition
  • For growing relationships with sister congregations
Friday: Provision for Our Needs
  • For a new location to open up to us soon
  • For the financial needs for a new building/location to be met
  • For unknown factors to be met in advance by God’s will
Saturday: Deepening Worship
  • That a new location would enrich our worship
  • For deepened & stronger community through worship
  • For worship space adequate for our current & future needs
Thank you for the fellowship of your prayers.

Monday, August 6, 2012

"LORD" in the Psalms (and elsewhere)

[From Pastor Ed on August 5 and August 12, 2012]

Frequently in the Psalms, we see the word "LORD" spelled out in either all capital letters or in what is called "small caps". What does this mean?

In the Hebrew language, there are two words that are commonly rendered in English translations as "lord": the first, a common word, adon (from which we get the name of God "Adonai") is translated "lord" and means lord or master, as in "the lord of the manor" or some sort of leader and overseer. This word could refer to men of some higher status, as in the lord of the house (to someone in the household), a governor, or the king. Of course, it can also refer to God, because He is the Lord over all! But it does not bear any specific or personal meaning.

The second word that is translated "Lord" is the Hebrew name for God, Yahweh (or Jehovah)— sometimes called the "tetragrammaton" (literally, the "four letters") because it is constructed simply of the four consonants: J/Y, H, W/V, and H. Because the Hebrew people considered this name to be so holy that they would never say it or write it out fully— lest they be in violation of the third commandment— we don't actually know what vowels would have been inserted between these consonants! (This is why it could be Yahweh or Jehovah.) Instead, they would just use the consonants to represent this name.

The earliest translators saw fit to translate this word also as "Lord", probably because they recognized that, as the name of the Lord of all, it was fitting that the title also be His name. (Similar to how we would never presume such familiarity with a king or president to call him by his first name, but would simply say "King".) But as a distinction from the word adon, the name began to be rendered in the all-caps or small-caps way that we see it.

This word, the name of God, isn't like any other name that we find for Him in the Old Testament. It isn't uncommon to find references to other gods, especially in reference to idol-worshipping practices, but these would have names of their own (like Ba'al, which is the name of a specific idol-god). Yahweh, however, was the name of the God above all gods— the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Furthermore, the name Yahweh is given to His people in a certain context. Abraham is told this name, Yahweh, when God declares to him (in Genesis 15:7): "I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” Moses is told this name when he is instructed in how the Israelites would know that it was God who sent him (in Exodus 3:15): Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations."

In short: the name Yahweh always indicated, not just that the Lord of lords was the One meant by the name, but the God of Abraham— the covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. He describes Himself in this way, when He appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai and identified Himself (in Exodus 34:6-7): "The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Therefore, when we encounter "LORD" in the Psalms (and elsewhere in Scripture), we need to recognize this important and faith-building distinction of Who it is that is spoken of: it is Yahweh, our covenant God!