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Why do we read, study and give authority to #Bible
I was recently invited to participate in a dialogue on the authority of Scripture at United Theological Seminary with friend, Rev. Dr. Mike Slaughter. We were each given fifteen minutes to talk about how we conceive of Scripture’s authority. The following is the basic text of my presentation. I’ve edited it a bit to make it more appropriate for reading, rather than hearing. The ideas here, however, are entirely the same as those I presented. A segment of this talk is taken (with some modification) from my book, Scripture and the Life of God (Seedbed, 2017).
The Christian faith stands or falls upon claims of divine revelation.
The central revelation of our faith is the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ. And that central revelation is disclosed to us through two additional sources of revelation: first Scripture and second tradition.
Apart from Scripture and tradition…
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Here is what I learned while I studied these verses.
First— Once again we see that God is Faithful…. God does what he says he is going to do… Simeon had been promised that He would not die before seeing the Messiah. We see God’s promise to Simeon fulfilled. That still leaves Anna, there is not any promise mentioned here. What little we know about Anna is just these few things, her family line, Asher, she was a prophetess, and she wasn’t just old, she was “very old.” We are told how after being married for 7 years, her husband died, and she lived as a widow for a long period of time. Is she 84 when this story takes place? Or as the original Greek seems to say, she lived as a widow for 84 years….. so 84, + 7 + however old she was when she was married… 14-15-16—- That would make her “very old” and what is this “very old” woman doing with her life. We read…
“She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying”
So in the example of Simeon, I can look and say, God is so faithful, he does what he says he is going to do. In Anna I look at her story and what I see is When People Are Faithful, God blesses them. I think Anna was being extremely faithful. How many of us, whenever we get to that age of being “very-old” would be at the temple everyday worshiping, fasting, and praying? Well the good news is that God does not want most of us to be at church every day, worshiping, fasting and praying.
In Anna & Simeon, we have two different people. Two different lives lived. What is similar is that they are both being faithful. They are being who God created them to be. Simeon, a righteous and devote man, was waiting for the Messiah. God through the Spirit tells him. You will not die before seeing the Messiah in flesh. Simeon gets this promise from God, and then stays faithful. He does not rest saying, well I can just sit around and God will bring the Messiah to me, after all he promised me I would see him. No He continues being righteous, devoted, faithful so that when the Holy Spirit calls he hears it…
“Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.”
Anna just doing what she does everyday…. at the temple, praying, fasting, worshiping. Then she sees this little baby, and somehow she recognizes him the Messiah. She thanks God, and then goes around telling people about the baby Jesus. Here is the one we have been waiting for. Our Messiah has come. God uses unexpected people to share the unexpected good news of Jesus. Just like the shepherds from the Nativity Story earlier in the second chapter of Luke:
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
For me when I read the story of Mary & Joseph taking baby Jesus into the temple, having this encounter with Simeon, and then Anna…. It not only shows me that God is Faithful, it shows me God blesses people who are faithful. God rewards people who are faithful!! and usually the way he does it, is with other faithful people….. Joseph & Mary— They were being faithful…. They have both been told, by Angels and people, Mary’s baby, is the long-awaited Messiah. Joseph is not the birth father, God through the Spirit is the real Father. Joseph will serve as a faithful earthly father. I like most men, if I had found out our baby was the Messiah, I would be like, why do we have to do all this religious stuff, he is the Messiah, He is God… What does it matter, why follow God’s Law, He is God’s Law.
Yet Joseph and Mary did everything required of the God’s Law….. No shortcuts….
Circumcised, named the baby Jesus, brought him to the temple….
They were faithful & God rewards them with the affirmations and blessings from Simeon and Anna.
“The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them”
Maybe God knew they needed some reassurance. After all it had been over five weeks. The shepherds had left, It was just Mary, Joseph, and this little baby Jesus. They had left the birthplace Bethlehem, made their way to Jerusalem, to the temple. And they get this unexpected Blessing, having two different people again confirm to them, yes this is the Messiah. This little baby boy, was the long-awaited Messiah……
Here is what my main take away is…God blesses people who are faithful to Him. In today’s story God is showing us how God Blesses people who are faithful. So what should our response be to God being faithful? If you agree with me that God is Faithful, what should your response be? If we accept God as being faithful, should not we in return do everything possible to be faithful to God? “If God is Faithful, We should be Faithful.”
For me, the best way for me to be faithful is to be who God created me to be. Our relationship with God is meant to be two-way. God loves us, wants us to grow into the fullness of what we are destined for. Once we discover that, we can not help but love and worship God. So how is your relationship with God? Do you talk with him daily? God wants nothing more from you than to be who he created you to be. The person he loved from the beginning, the person you are today, God loves You!
God is Faithful, what is your response?
(based on my message from 12/31/17)
Divided or United
(Taken from my message 8/20/17)
We often think these problems we are dealing with today, in our times, are new, never happened before. Yet a review of history shows what problems our world has today, have been problems throughout history. The problems may manifest themselves in different ways, but the core issues really don’t change much. That is why one of my favorite sayings is, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Yet here we are in 2017, and with what happened in Charlotesville, Virginia.
To even dream that there would be a group of people with Swastika’s demonstrating in broad day light, thinking this is their time to grow and gain influence in our country, The United States of America. Less than 75 years have gone by since America joined War War 2, to defeat Fascism. Over 400,000 American lost their lives in the second World War in a war to defeat Fascism. There are actually people walking around our world, today who insist that the Holocaust did not really happen. Or they want to down play it. Here is what history tells us about the number of people killed by Nazi Germany from 1939-1945
Between five and six million Jewish people.
More than three million Soviet prisoners of war
More than two million Soviet civilians
More than one million Polish civilians
More than one million Yugoslav civilians
About 70,000 men, women and children with mental and physical handicaps
More than 200,000 gypsies
Unknown numbers of political prisoners, resistance fighters, homosexuals and deportees
and a more recent study has suggested that the actual numbers may be even higher.
How soon we forget, “those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Now the debate has been shifted to Confederate Monuments. I being someone who likes history likes having these monuments in public places. This enables us to teach our children and grandchildren, give a short lesson to them. Here is what that flag means, and don’t sugar coat it. Tell it like it is. The Confederate Flag represents a time when many people thought they were superior to other people based on the color of their skin. I could go on & on, but this is not meant to be a history lesson…. Let me just say, the end of the Civil War was just the beginning for the fight for equality in our United States of America. I asked last week are we going to let culture and the world tell people who Jesus is, and what the Bible says, or when given the chance are we going to do it. Let me add to that, we are called to be a people who stand against all injustice that we come across. When we see injustice in the world we need to say, that is not right, and explain why it is wrong. We are called to be a people of the light. Called to shine the light of Jesus into the darkness of the world.
We live in a broken world, there will be injustices and divisions we come across. That is part of living in our broken world. However we should not accept those things as ok. That is just the way it is. We should not accept things that attempt to divide people into different categories. Social and economic policies that make it harder for people to get help when they need it. See if we are really going to be followers of Jesus, we have to remember he really meant that love your neighbor stuff. I want to take a minute and just look at what happened the last night Jesus and his disciples are together. Jesus knows what is going to happen in just a few days, the crucifixion. His teaching time is coming to an end soon. Jesus is with his closest disciples. They have been following him for a few years. Yet Jesus is not done teaching them, he wants to share some important things, first Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, showing us what servant leadership really looks like. Those who are leaders need to serve those they are leading. They share the last supper together. Where Jesus gives us the Sacrament of the New Covenant,4 Holy Communion, “Do this for remembrance of me, and then he tells his disciples, A new command I give you, Love one another… It meant that much that it is one of the last things Jesus tells his disciples before his journey to the cross. Love one another, as I have Loved you, so too are you to Love one another…… This took on so much more importance and meaning after Jesus went to the cross. That is why I said, if we are really going to be followers of Jesus, we have to remember he really meant this love your neighbor stuff.
Mercy should be an important word in our faith life, and I am not sure it is. Yet it is by showing mercy to all, that God gives us the opportunity to have a relationship with him. Due to us being imperfect creatures, living in an imperfect world we can not escape being disobedient to God. By showing us Grace, By Loving us so much that Jesus went to the cross so that we could be declared right before God, God shows us that He is Merciful and Forgiving……..no matter how many times you or I are disobedient to God, He shows us Mercy and forgives us. Always!! So what is the right response as people who have been shown mercy by God? We are called to Love People Like Jesus Loves us…. and here is the thing, we should know going in, we are going to fail. No one can love people like Jesus…Yet we have been given our orders…. Love one another….and to me, one of the easiest ways to love like Jesus….. is to show mercy to people…. I think we all have that ability to show compassion toward people. To forgive people who may have wronged us. As a person who has been a recipient of God’s Mercy, It is required that I show mercy to others……
There are always going to be disagreements and problems with different solutions. Yet shouldn’t we all agree to not let anything divide us. Especially if we are going to say we are followers of Jesus. When divided we are not as strong. When we are united the few become many, and the many become more. Together we will help to make the world a better place. Just by Loving our Neighbor as ourselves……
Jesus hears John the Baptist is dead. This was his cousin. This was the man who announced this is the One we have been waiting for and baptized him. So Jesus is understandably upset, Jesus wants to have some solitude to mourn. So he leaves Nazareth, looking for some alone time. So in our story, Jesus is trying to be alone, but by this time in His ministry, it is very hard for him to find solitude. The crowds, seeing him heal people, hearing about miracles he has done, and hearing him teach, they want more, they know they need more Jesus. So when word gets out, Jesus is heading over here, the people figure out where he is going, and Jesus arrives to not just a crowd, but a “large crowd.” So Jesus being Jesus, changes his plan…. “he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” So Jesus had this plan… I need sometime by myself, time to mourn, I’m pretty sure he would have been spending time in prayer. Time to recharge the batteries. Yet when something happened, people needed him, he changed his plans and took care of the people who were there. So Jesus has been ministering to the people, and now his closest friends they are kind of worried about this change of plans. Wow there are a lot of people here, it is getting kind of late and who is going to take care of getting them getting feed. Can you imagine the conversation between the disciples. Peter, he’ll listen to you, go tell him we can’t feed all these people. No, you go John, he loves you. Lazarus who handles the money, looks in the money bag, Someone better go tell him, no way we can afford to feed all these people…. That was not in the plan…. So they decide, they make a plan, we’ll all go together, then he’ll listen.
Of course Jesus doesn’t like that plan.. He tells them, “you give them something to eat.” So in this story, we have these plans, Jesus who wants to have some quiet time. The disciples, they want Jesus to tell the people, hey it’s getting late, time for you to go.. Jesus is all about changing plans to meet the needs of the people…Jesus is all about changing plans to share God’s Love with people. I think everyone here has experienced God changing our plans. As the saying goes, we make our plans, and God laughs.. I don’t think that is Biblical, however I bet it does make him smile as we make our plans… So why bother to even plan for things? Isn’t God going to provide for us?
I think it is important for us to make our plans. We need to follow good thinking, good planning, we need to always pray over our plans, ask God to help guide us. I think when we do this, it shows our commitment. We planned to move to Delaware full-time, after lots of thinking, discussing, and praying…. Only after we felt like God was not going to object to us doing that, did we go on…. However as with most of my plans, they never go as I expect them to…. and it caused a great deal of stress in our lives. One thing it did not do was create doubt about God-loving us and being with us. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have some heated discussions with God. I want to share
this with you, if you are mad at God for something, you may as well vocalize it. Go ahead and yell at him. God knows when you are mad or upset with Him. You may as well let it out. Here are a couple of sayings I like a “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.” & “A bad plan is better than no plan.” See we need to make our plans, I think it shows our commitment to God. OK God here is what I am planning, here is what we are planning, what do you think? So let us make our plans, try to line them up with God’s plan, God’s will…… But never, never use a pen when making those plans. unless you have a lot of white out. Use a pencil, be ready to make changes to your plans as things happen, as Life happens.
I always try to be thinking, Is God trying to show me something, or teach me something. Just like he was always trying to show and teach the disciples….verse 16 “Jesus replied They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” and How often are we just like the disciples, I don’t have enough to give the people. There is so much need in this world, we can get overwhelmed if we think too much about it. How can my little bit make a difference. Then of course we are busy, busy, busy. We think “I just don’t have the time to commit to something.” It is getting late, Jesus, send the people away so they will have time to get food. All they had was five loaves of bread and two fish. If we look at what we have to offer, it can seem to be to little, too late. I did my part, I served, I gave, now It’s time to ease up a little. What we sometimes forget, is that God has his own math. God takes what little we offer with the right attitude, and multiplies it so that it is more than enough. When we give of ourselves, when we give our money, when we give our time, with gladness and thanksgiving, God is going o Bless it. from verse 19 “Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven He gave thanks, and broke the loaves.” God is always working in the background, using what we have, Sometimes working days, months, years ahead. Taking what we offer, God multiplies it so that it is more than enough. Jesus is telling us today, You feed them…the crowds are hungry….and do you know what the crowds are really hungry for today? The Gospel message of Jesus Christ….. God loves them, God Love You!!
He wants to have a relationship with You! John 3:16-17 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
This message is just as relevant and important today, as at any point in history…. Our challenge is how to let the crowds know…how do we feed them God’s Love.. I think an important way to do that is person to person…..telling your story…. What God means to you. How has having a relationship with Jesus changed your life. You share your story with someone, you invite someone to come with you to church. You go to visit someone who can’t get around like they used to. God is going to bless what you offer. You are sharing what you have gotten from God, His Love. Each person here has something to offer God. God has placed you here to be a part of serving and growing His Kingdom here today. If you aren’t sure how or what to give, that’s OK. The important thing is God knows. So lets follow this logically. If God knows, what he gave you, don’t you think he’s going to let you know. Maybe Help point you in the right direction?
The most important thing to offer God, is just make yourself available to do what he wants you to do. It really is, Just be who God created you to be. It may take a little more time in prayer, a little more time reading God’s Word. But it really is just being the best you can be, today. Don’t worry about yesterday, that is like history, gone. Tomorrow, it isn’t here yet. Let us just be who God wants us to be today. So like the disciples, giving the five loaves and two fish, don’t you think you should “give God what you got?” I tell you, you give God what you got and he will amaze you with what happens when, you give God what you got…… Amen…
From sermon 8/06/2017
From my message 7/02/2017
For me God’s word is kind of like coffee………Now stay with me…..
In a previous church my wife and I would help with fellowship events. Making the coffee was a job, so important, that most people did not want to do it. They were afraid they would mess it up, and people wouldn’t like it. I told them making coffee is pretty easy. Put coffee in the filter, put filter with coffee back in the machine,pour in water…. Presto you have coffee……. Here is what I told them…. If you just follow the basic steps you will make coffee and here is what is going to happen….. Someone will say umm that coffee is too weak. Another person will say yuck this coffee is too strong……and someone will say this is the best coffee they ever had. Almost always happened that way. Same coffee, but it depends on the person, and their own personal tastes. That is going to determine how they experience it.
When we hear God’s Word, each of us is going to filter it by what is going on in our lives. It is the same Word, yet there will be different responses to it. We are all different, we all have different stuff going on in our lives. Yet no matter what is going on in our lives God’s Word is there waiting to speak to each one of us. …..
Just like coffee to me, and many people, we need God’s Word in our lives every day. Do you have a way of having God’s Word speak into your life every day?
Get creative….. Ask yourself what’s the best way for me to get God’s Word into my life? One of the blessings and curses of today’s world is technology. Use technology!! Daily Bible Readings can be sent to you in so many ways!!
Texts, Social Media, Audio, Email! Keep trying different things, until you find what works for you….
God is a God of relationships, and He wants to have a relationship with you……..
I mean just think about it, the God who created the universe, the God who went to the cross for our sins, the God who lives in us… He wants to have a relationship with you!! Why? Because He Loves You!
Now most of us have different relationships at different levels. Don’t you want to have the best communication with the people who are most important to you!!
I’m just saying….
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, that person will not lose their reward.
The little ones are the disciples, the new employees on the job. They are not going out as only themselves, they are going out with the power of God. Instead of a nice clean uniform, id badge and color brochures, they go out representing God. Jesus gave them the authority and power to go out.
Since they go representing God, and carry with them God’s authority, their acceptance or rejection would test the people’s attitude about God. It is that attitude that leads to reward or loss of reward.
Attitude isn’t that what really counts? Earlier I said, “when we hear God’s Word each of us is going to filter it by what is going on in our lives.. It is the same word, yet there will be different responses to it.” I think attitude is an important part of how we respond to God’s Word. What is my attitude? What is your attitude about God’s Word?
Do we come with eager expectation, that no matter what is going on in our lives, God is ready to speak to us?
Do we come with thankfulness that we live in a country where we are allowed to gather together in worship and to hear God’s Word proclaimed!! We are allowed to have Bibles…
Do we come with the realization that Scripture, God’s Word, the Bible is a form of God’s Grace….. God Reaching out to us to draw us closer to him…..
What is your attitude and how will you respond?
Good Read by Carey Nieuwhof
The rise of self as the ultimate arbiter of truth is antithetical not only to the Gospel but to the very basis of civilization.
Civilized people think beyond themselves. They care and they give. They put themselves second, or third.
It sounds hyperbolic to say civilization is being threatened. But maybe it’s not hyperbole.
Why love your neighbour when you can attack him? Maybe the attack never happened anyway.