Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bible Notes: Num 11

Here we get an idea of God’s reaction to complaining.

The people complain about their misfortunes. The LORD burns down part of their camp until Moses intervenes. (1-3)

Some of the Israelites then complain about the LORD’s menu (“this manna“), remembering Egypt’s as much better. (4-9)

The people are weeping, God is angry, and Moses is upset. (10) Sounds like a Sunday morning at my house.

Moses complains to the LORD 1) about the burden of leading the people, and 2) about how he has no idea where to get meat for the people. (11-15)

God answers both complaints: 1) He will add 70 men to the leadership team, and 2) he will provide meat until they’re nauseated by the sight of it (“until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you”--what a vivid description!). (16-20)

Moses points out the flaws in God’s latter point: There are 600,000 men alone (not to mention how women and children swell that number). Slaughter the herds and flocks, and gather all the fish from the sea, and it still won't feed all the Israelites for a month. The Lord responds with a “don’t doubt my ability, and don’t doubt my word.” (21-23)

God delivers on the first promise: his Spirit comes to rest on 70 men. (24-30)

God delivers on the second promise, and big: he blows in a whole bunch of quail that drop to the ground all around the camp. (25-30)
  • The extent of the quail is a day’s journey in any direction, and it’s depth is 3 feet!!! The people spend 2 days gathering and distributing the meat. The minimum amount gathered by any person is 6 bushels of quail!
  • And while they are eating, God’s anger is kindled, and he strikes many of them down as they eat it. And there they are buried.

The chapter is framed by two judgments, and each judgment makes its mark with both death and a geographical name. The first place was called Taberah, which mean “burning” (3), and the second place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, which means “graves of craving” (34).

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Message Re-titles the Priests

While I enjoy and appreciate the perspective The Message gives me, one decision Eugene Peterson made puzzles me. He reversed the titles of the chief priests and the high priest.

Thus in Mark 14:53-54: “They led Jesus to the Chief Priest, where the high priests, religious leaders, and scholars had gathered together. Peter followed at a safe distance until they got to the Chief Priest’s courtyard …”

The half dozen or so other translations I consulted all maintain the reverse: one high priest and several chief priests.

It’s not a big deal; I’m just curious as to why he made the change.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"The Lost Choice" Not My Choice

Sara and I just finished reading The Lost Choice, by Andy Andrews, and we are split on our opinions. Sara liked the book. I didn't so much.

I was turned off once I realized the book is a motivational story written by a motivational speaker (and writer). The subtitle turned me off as well: "A Legend of Personal Discovery."

I don't read novels to be preached to (at least preached to directly--stories, of course, do influence and persuade, but in subtle ways).

The story is moderately interesting. A relic is found that is discovered to have connections to many powerful people of the past, and as Mark and Dorry and Dylan and Abby work to uncover the significance of the relic, they are increasingly stunned by what they find. The story flashes back and tells other stories, historical stories, along the way. Thus the reader encounters George Washington Carver, Alfred Vanderbilt, and others along the way.

The narrative of the present-day story is lackluster, and it's a bit unreal, probably because the reader knows the author is trying to get you to do something. So extra details seem unnecessary. "Don't tell me that humor flashed in her eyes, or that Dorry got the coffee ready while Dylan prepared the table" the reader thinks. "Get to the point. What's the lesson I'm supposed to learn?"

I hasten to add that a lot of people apparently do like this book, given the endorsements all over the jacket.

First line: Kasimir shielded his eyes with both hands as he peered intently into the sun's last rays.

Last line: And just like the other three pieces of the cup, it is hiding in plain sight.

My rating (out of 5): 2

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Those Life-Changing Moments That Seem So Routine

Today the Discover the Word team at Radio Bible Class discussed those routine moments that hindsight reveals to be significant.

The discussion prompted me to consider which routine moments in my life turned out to be propitious.

1) A day at Waynedale Park as a kid brought me into the Missionary Church.

Attending a small church with where my brother and I made up 50-67% of the Sunday School's elementary dept., my parents were considering getting us involved in another church on non-Sunday mornings. Somehow--and here's where the details are foggy--we connected with Avalon Missionary and their AWANA program at Waynedale Park. We got involved in AWANA, which met at Avalon. Later, I entered the youth group, my family started attending Sunday night services, etc., etc.

Now I am a pastor in the Missionary Church. My home church being an independent church, the Missionary Church is the only denomination I've ever belonged to.

2) At the beginning of a required speech course in college, I, the off-campus student, was shyly passive while students I didn't know partnered up for introduction speeches. At some point a confident freshman recognized my dilemma, took pity on me, and offered to be my partner. Names being fundamental to the whole introduction thing, I heard hers for the first time: Sara Inniger.

Two years later I asked her to be my partner for life.

3) A "chance" encounter at a big box store in Fort Wayne first brought the possibility of Northside Missionary Church into my path. My mom ran into Dr. Dave Biberstine there, one of my former college professors. When asked how I was doing, Mom reported I was looking for a place to do my internship. Dr. Biberstine told her Harvester and Northside were looking. She told me, and I told Sara's dad, who saw Pat (Northside) at monthly lunches. Pat was interested. On Easter Sunday 1995, I got a resume and cover letter together.

4) A weird interview and a slow response kept me aimed at Northside.

Three possibilities were before me: an internship at Village Church of Gurnee, where we were attending; an internship and position at Northside; and an internship and position at Trinity Missionary in Petoskey, MI. Of the 3, my pick was Trinity.

On May 9, 1995, we met with Trinity's pastor, and we came away feeling the interview didn't go well. Two days later, Todd at Village Church told me Village would only take me on as a part-time intern.

The next day, May 12, we met with Pat and Ginny Ryan (and Pat's mom) on the south side of Chicago for 3 hours. Pat practically offered me the position. Five days later, I called him and told him I was definitely interested. Two days after that, May 19, we met with the Board, received an offer, and accepted it.

Not long after that, I received a letter from Trinity's pastor declaring their desire to pursue further the possibility of my service at Trinity. Had that letter come earlier, would I have so eagerly pursued Northside?

Monday, November 22, 2010

God's Justice and Mercy Irreconcilable?

How do we reconcile God's justice and God's mercy?

Psalm 103:10 says, "He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities."

But Psalm 33:5 says, "The LORD loves righteousness and justice."

How can God be just and not punish us for our sins?

The New Testament gives us the answer to this conundrum.
  • He doesn’t temper his wrath and justice against our sins.
  • He just tempers his wrath and justice against us.
  • How does that make sense? It makes sense because our sins are transferred to Christ.
  • All sins are dealt with to the full. Those who don’t know Christ will pay for their own sins in the judgment to come. But Christ has paid for the sins of those who belong to him, and he has paid for them in full.

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities because he treated Jesus in that manner on our behalf. And Jesus willingly took that cross upon himself.

At the cross a great exchange took place: Jesus got our sins, and we got his righteousness. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 1 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

Praise the Lord that, in you are a Christian, instead of wrath and justice you get mercy instead. Praise the Lord who went to the cross to propitiate God, to atone for your sins, to divert the heat of God’s wrath from you to himself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Look Back at the 3rd Wed. of Nov.

I've been teaching at Northside for the last 15 1/2 years. This is totally random, but I thought I'd look back at the topics I've focused on the third week of November. The years not included are those when I didn't teach, either because someone else was teaching, or we were involved in our annual Service of Thanks.

Adult Bible Study
2010 (Tonight): "The House of Herod"; series: Luke
2009: "The Theology of a Schedule Change"; series: 2 Corinthians
2008: "Bewitched" (1 Sam 28:3-25); series: Saul & David

Youth Group
2006: "Creative Thanksgiving" (Psalm 103:1-5)
2005: [no title] (Lk 17:11-19)
2003: "Demonic Methods"
2002: "Jesus and 10 Lepers" (Lk 17:11-17)
2000: "Jesus is 100% Man and 100% God"; series: Who Is Jesus?
1998: discussion of using our strengths and talents to glorify God
1997: "Stamp out Putdowns"
1996: "Develop Integrity"; series: Life Survival Skills
1995: "Learning How to Pray from Jesus" (Mt 6:9-13)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Highlights from President Bush's Memoirs

What follow are points of interest for me as I've read the book thus far.

--President Bush [I'll refer to him as "PB" from here on out] explains that he is a lot like his mother: the same sense of humor, the same quick temper, the same bluntness. “When I ran for governor of Texas, I told people that I had my daddy’s eyes and my mother’s mouth” (7). I have enjoyed reading the wit of President Lincoln from time to time. Reading Barbara Bush’s wit as it pops up in Decision Points is just about as fun.
  • PB ran a marathon in January 1993, 4 days after his dad left the White House. At mile 19 he ran past his parents. His dad shouted, “That’s my boy!” His mom: “Keep moving, George! There are some fat people ahead of you!” (50)
  • Shortly after he announced his candidacy for president in the summer of 1999, a large group of photographers gathered in Maine to capture on film the new candidate, his wife, and his parents. Barbara looked at the photographers and asked, “Where were you in ’92?” (referring to the year her husband lost his reelection bid) (63).
--“Yale was a place where I felt free to discover and follow my passions” PB writes. He took an eclectic collection of classes, including “Astronomy, City Planning, Prehistoric Archaeology, Masterpieces of Spanish Literature, and, still one of my favorites, Japanese Haiku.” He jokes about getting a 70 in Mass Communication, “which might explain my shaky relations with the media over the years.” But history was his passion and his major. (14)

--He starts off the book with his drinking problem, and if he doesn’t tell all, he certainly tells enough to make the reader realize that he’s not trying to justify or excuse his intemperance. He tells a few embarrassing stories, including the one about his DUI in 1976 (age 30). He gave up drinking for good at the age of 40 in 1986.

--He met Laura in July of 1977, proposed in late September, and they were married Nov 5, less than four months after they met. They grew up near each other but had never met. PB thinks he knows why: “While I couldn’t pinpoint it at the time, I believe there is a reason Laura and I never met all those years before. God brought her into my life at just the right time, when I was ready to settle down and was open to having a partner at my side. Thankfully, I had the good sense to recognize it.” In a book entitled Decision Points, the former president remarks, “It was the best decision of my life.” (27)

--He discusses his growing faith in the mid-80s, a faith which was aided by a conversation with Billy Graham, his involvement in a weekly Bible study, and his daily reading of Scripture. He confesses that religion had always been a part of his life, but he “really wasn’t a believer” (30). His understanding of the Christian faith is expressed well in such statements as the following:
  • “[S]elf-improvement is not really the point of the Bible. The center of Christianity is not the self. It is Christ” (31).
  • “Ultimately, faith is a walk—a journey toward greater understanding. It is not possible to prove God’s existence, but that cannot be the standard for belief. After all, it is equally impossible to prove that He doesn’t exist. In the end, whether you believe or don’t believe, your position is based on faith. That realization freed me to recognize signs of God’s presence…. I moved ahead more confidently on my walk. Prayer was the nourishment that sustained me. As I deepened my understanding of Christ, I came closer to my original goal of being a better person—not because I was racking up points …, but because I was moved by God’s love” (32-33).

In addition to his wife, he credits his faith with helping him to give up drinking.

--PB worked on his dad’s presidential campaigns. He himself first ran for office when he ran for Congress in 1977-1978, representing Midland’s sprawling district in Texas. He won the primary in the spring of ’78, but he lost the election to Democrat Kent Hance. It was the only race he ever lost. He ran for governor in Texas against the popular incumbent, Ann Richards. When his mother heard he was in the race, she said, “George, you can’t win” (53). But he did, and he easily won reelection in 1998, even being endorsed by the Democratic lieutenant governor (Texas lieutenant governors are elected separately from its governors).

--The chapter, “Personnel,” is fascinating. PB discusses how he chose his team from the Vice President on down: his cabinet, his Supreme Court appointees, etc. Here are some interesting tidbits:
  • “For the most part, the national security team [Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, Tenet] functioned smoothly in the early years of the administration. The economic team did not.” The latter statement refers primarily to Paul O’Neill, PB's first Treasury Secretary.
  • Vice President Cheney himself told PB in 2003 that he would have no hard feelings if he decided to make a change in the VP office for the 2004 reelection bid. Bush’s comments are telling of both men. “His offer impressed me. It was so atypical in power-hungry Washington. It confirmed the reasons I’d picked Dick in the first place. I did consider his offer…. [H]e had become a lightning rod for criticism from the media and the left…. The more I thought about it, the more strongly I felt Dick should stay. I hadn’t picked him to be a political asset; I had chosen him to help me do the job. That was exactly what he had done” (86-87).
  • Bush’s dad’s Supreme Court appointments: “I knew how proud Dad was to have appointed Clarence Thomas, a wise, principled, humane man. I also knew he was disappointed that his other nominee, David Souter, had evolved into a different kind of judge than he expected” (96).

Monday, November 15, 2010

President George W. Bush's Memoirs Engrossing

Towards the end of President Bush's 2nd term, I started telling Sara and others that I wanted to read his memoirs. I wanted to know the behind-the-scenes of so many events as well as his thinking on many issues.

Well, I saw the book the other day at Family Christian Stores, saw it was on sale, realized I had a gift card, and I bought it.

It is an engrossing read. President Bush's writing is simple (not simplistic), straight-forward, and down-to-earth. The book is not chronological; it's structured rather around decisions he considers key, most of the them during his presidency. Hence the title, Decision Points.

At 170 pages in, I have noted certain striking themes:
  • the tremendous respect and love President Bush has for his father
  • his competitive nature
  • his love for the United States
  • his knowledge of world history in general and of US history in particular
  • his charity toward most, even his political enemies
  • his command of the White House (contrary to rumors that the VP Cheney was actually running the administration).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Not Ready to Make Judgment on New NIV

Monday I fired up the Bible Gateway site to look up Prov 2:7 in some other versions. I knew what the NIV said, but what about the NASB, the ESV, etc.? To my surprise the NIV that came up didn't say what I thought it said.

I had wandered into the NIV update zone. Last updated in 1984, the new NIV kicked into gear on Monday, Nov 1. My understanding is that the physical Bible won't come out until next year.

And there appear to be changes. In the course of my study the last couple days, 4 of the 5 verses I needed to look up had been changed. Two examples include the following:

Prov 2:7a (Old NIV)
He holds victory in store for the upright,

(New NIV)
He holds success in store for the upright,

Acts 4:12 (Old NIV)
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

(New NIV)
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

One change that really threw me off today was Heb 11:11:

Heb 11:11 (Old NIV)
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.

(New NIV)
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.

Is this verse about Abraham or Sarah? All other translations I checked (KJV, NASB, ESV, NLT) agree with the new NIV. Two of my (favorite) commentaries (William Lane and F. F. Bruce), note the difficulty of translating this verse, and both agree with the Old NIV for a variety of reasons I won't go into here.

What other changes have been made? I'm going to check some verses right now, live as I write this blog. (Exciting, huh!?)

Let's start with the grand-daddy verse of them all, John 3:16. ... OK, no change.

How about 1 Peter 2:24? ... One change. "Tree" is changed to "cross."

What else? Let me saunter over to 1 Corinthians 1:30. ... No change.

How about Psalm 16:11? No change.

Matthew 6:25-27? Only slight changes in 27 from Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? to Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Well, it remains to be seen what other changes have been made. Maybe grist for another post.

The 2010 NIV does present a frustration and a dilemma to me. The frustration is the fact I have memorized many verses from the 1984 NIV. The dilemma is whether to buy a new 1984 NIV as mine is beginning to wear out, or do I wait for the 2010 NIV next year. I don't see the church replacing our NIV pew Bibles any time soon. Hmmm.