Information doesn’t wan’t to be free; it doesn’t even want to be information

This morning’s attempt to read some news articles and blog posts with my morning coffee has been exceedingly frustrating.  I’ve given up and will type a rant instead.

I’m still pining for the days of Google Reader, the news aggregator that did what I wanted and displayed nonintrusive ads.  I haven’t been happy with alternatives that have either have a more “magazine like” presentation, continue to add more features, or display duplicate banner ads larger than the material I want to read.  I really need little more than a list of headlines that I can look at with as little distraction as possible.

As I try to read news on a newsreader site some posts display only headlines or a portion so that you have to go to the site.  I understand the need to get visitors to your site as a means of revenue for commercial journalism, but much of what I read is put out by non-profit ministries without any external ads.

Ads, by the way, have gotten to be way out of control.  I understand the need for revenue, but it seems like there should be some sense of proportionality to the context.  If I watch a video on YouTube, a video commercial at the beginning seems appropriate.  Listening to a brief interruption on Spotify also seems to fit the context.  Reading requires some measure of concentration, and to go to a site and begin reading an article only to have my attention hijacked by a video car commercial playing in the margin tells me the site owners don’t value their content enough to let me read it.  By the time I find the video to pause it I usually conclude that the point of the site isn’t to give me information, but to present advertisements.

More and more sites I go to cover the screen with a weasel worded email signup forms.  These are particularly frustrating when they continue to show up on every visit – even if you have signed up.  And once I’m past the sign up form there are the ubiquitous social media sharing plugins that cover portions of text so that reading a page requires strategical scrolling to get around Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest logos.

Based on the current state of the internet information doesn’t want be free, it wants to be caged behind sign in forms, ill thought out design, and obnoxious advertisements.  And judging from the amount of “fake news”, assertions without arguments, and opinions presented as facts, it doesn’t want to be information.

Greek for Everyone, A Review

9780801018916Greek for Everyone: Introductory Greek for Bible Study and Application, by A. Chadwick Thornhill

Greek for Everyone is an introduction to New Testament exegesis. It is primarily an introduction to the mechanics of Greek grammar and how to make use of tools to understand the Greek text. There are additionally a few chapters that deal with textual criticism, translation philosophy, interpreting within different contexts, etc….

The books aims at explaining enough of how Greek works to be able to understand and use exegetical tools, without having memorized vocabulary and patterns. So someone who finishes Greek for Everyone should be able to understand what “aorist subjunctive” means, but without memorizing the forms. They would be able to make fuller use of an interlinear, commentary, or other tools but not able read a Greek text.

I found the introductory chapters on the way language works and how to break down a sentence into smaller segments very helpful. Getting a big picture view and thinking of what connects phrases makes sense before getting into the details. Chapter 4, which surveys current resources, was also helpful. I appreciate that it lists several free, online resources rather than assuming the reader was using particular software.

The core material dealing with the details of grammar though I found to be dense. The chapters cover different parts of speech and the different ways they might function with an example from scripture, but the explanations are pretty terse and the would have benefited from more examples.  Also, having several new terms introduced, I would have found glossary very helpful in working through these sections as well as for later reference.

I could see this being a helpful book for someone who wanted to dig a little deeper in their Bible study, to do word studies, or to understand better what is behind the English translations. I could also see it being a helpful overview for someone to use before taking a Greek class or working through an introductory grammar, or even someone who has studied in seminary but needs a refresher.

I would note that Thornhill uses John’s statement about Baptism in Luke 3:16 as an example of dative of location (“in water”) and parenthetically defines baptism as “immersing” (p. 58). He offers no argument for why this would be locative rather than showing the means (“with water”) as most translations have it and doesn’t here note the range of meanings of the word βαπτιζω. Acknowledging other translation possibilities as valid would have made it more like for me as a Presbyterian to recommend this to teachers within our congregation.

Overall I thought this was a worthwhile aid, but one that would need to be supplemented by other resources.  So I’m glad the book closes with good recommendations for continued study.

 

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Luke 21:5-38

And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.

(Luke 21:5-38 ESV)

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 1:1-3 ESV)

Essentials of Our Faith: Scripture

 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:10-17 ESV)

rp_tumblr_m0tvs7ux7J1rrdedwo1_500.jpgAll Scripture is self-attesting and being Truth, requires our unreserved submission in all areas of life. The infallible Word of God, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, is a complete and unified witness to God’s redemptive acts culminating in the incarnation of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible, uniquely and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final authority on all matters on which it speaks.

Why we don’t kill people for touching dead pig skin

Football_signed_by_Gerald_R._FordI’ve seen a clip from West Wing going around on Facebook with the headline “How to Silence Kim Davis Supporters”.  In the clip the president lays out a litany of questions to someone who is representative of the Christian right.  I don’t know the plot – haven’t seen the show.  The questions are how to to apply Ex 21:7 (selling his daughter into slavery), Ex 35:2 (death penalty for breaking the Sabbath), Lev 11:7 (pigs are unclean), and other laws against mixing crops and fabrics etc…

Let me be emphatic: this is not a defense of Kim Davis.  This is a comment on the accusation that Christian’s cherry pick which verses of the Bible they want to follow.  When you write the lines and pick the actors you can make it look like Christian’s are stumped.  But in truth questions of how Christians should relate to the Old Testament laws isn’t a recent question.  In fact it’s one of the earliest things the Church dealt with, so early it’s actually included in the New Testament (Acts 15).  The Apostles gathered to ask essentially whether someone who believed in Jesus had to become Jewish and obey all of the Old Covenant laws.  They decided,  “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you [the Gentiles] no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality” (Acts 15:28-29).  In other words the New Testament explicitly says Christians are not bound by Jewish civil and worship regulations.  We are still obligated to keep God’s moral law.

I wish I could summarize this on handwritten sign and I would just hold it with an earnest expression for a picture on twitter – but this actually requires some thought and following a line of reasoning.  Some of the Old Testament laws dealt with religious worship and regulations that were sort of social markers that separated the Jewish people from other nations.  These were rules about how animals were sacrificed and dietary restrictions.  The Acts passage explicitly says these aren’t to be applied to Gentile Christians.  (Also see the book of Hebrews in the New Testament and Jesus’ own teachings about food laws in Mark 7:19).

Other laws dealt with how Israel would operate as a political state, these are the civil laws.  On one hand, they dealt with things similar to our inheritance laws and health codes.  On the other, they provided penalties for breaking criminal laws based on the moral law.  This for example would be how to deal with someone who murdered, or committed adultery, or stole something.  One very important difference between the Biblical nation of Israel and the Church is that the Church is not and never will be a nation or a political state.  So rather than trying to implement the laws of Israel, we are called to be obedient to whatever civic authorities we are under (Romans 13:1-7.)  This means we pay taxes and obey zoning laws.  It also means that we recognize the state’s right to enforce punishments on those who break the moral law.  Civil authorities, not the Church, regulate against theft, fraud, and murder.  The moral law is unchanging.  Although it is to be enforced by civil authority, the state doesn’t define it.  It is given by God and is part of the very fabric of creation, and we are called to obey it.  This is why the letters of the New Testament continue to call Christians to integrity, obedience, sexual purity and generosity – but not to refrain from bacon and shell fish or from wearing clothes of mixed fabrics.

If you aren’t a Christian you obviously disagree with this view of law, but I hope you would agree that to accuse Christians of only cherry picking Bible verses without ever referencing Jesus or any of the New Testament is an awfully selective use of scripture.

Sermon: The God who became flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and thehttp://scottsealy.com/sermon-the-god-who-became-flesh/ life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John 1:1-14 ESV)

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The Lord’s Day Blessings for a Pastor

Most Sundays after worship I stand outside and greet people. I’m often told by several people that they appreciated the service and the message. After several years of this it’s easy for a pastor to think of the Lord’s Day gathering as a time for us to minister to others. Of course it is, but not exclusively. This past Lord’s Day was especially a blessing to me.

Brothers and Sisters you ministered to me: when you shared with me about a book you had read that helped you understand the Scriptures better, when our deacons met with a family that needed assistance, when you welcomed visitors, and when I watched you encouraging and grieving with someone going through trials. It is a blessing to serve Christ’s church and to watch Him minister through you.

Faithful Membership 2: Gather to Worship

This is the second part of a series reviewing three crucial commitments church members should make to their the congregation. The series introduction can be found here.

Our first commitment is to gather with the rest of the community for public worship every Lord’s Day. This is a fundamental way we fulfill our vow “to serve Christ in his church by supporting and participating with this congregation in its service of God”. What makes corporate worship so important?

Scriptural Command

DSC01874First, when we worship we obey God who commands our praise. I Chronicles 16:29 states the direction that runs throughout scripture, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness”.

Moreover, the one who is worshiped determines how. Our praise of God isn’t a time of self-expression, it calls for submission and obedience. God commands us in the manner of our worship, and this includes the “when”. Worshiping God, in the way He has prescribed, is at the root of obedience to the Fourth Commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11 ESV)

We keep the Lord’s Day holy, in part, by corporate worship – gathering with God’s people to hear his Word, sing his praises, and lift up our hearts in adoration.

Gathering of the Covenant Community

Second, gathering together for worship, as are all of God’s commands, is for our benefit. We can’t be God-centered without being other-encompassed.  As T.S. Eliot wrote in “Choruses from the Rock”:

What life have you, if you have not life together?

There is no life that is not in community,

And no community not lived in praise of GOD.

Gathering together encourages us as we remember our identity as God’s redeemed and embraced children. It reorients us within the body and towards our Head.  As Hebrews instructs, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

IMG_6272A cliché sometimes heard by those who frequently neglect common worship is that they can worship God just as well on the golf course, or on the lake, or ball field – or whatever else we allow to take priority over worshiping God with our fellow believers.  But if worship is rightly understood, you can’t.  You might feel close to God, you might think about Him, you might even feel inspired by the majesty of creation.  But you can’t really worship as God has taught us because you can’t encourage and be encouraged by other believers, you can’t gather around the Lord’s table to receive the supper, you can’t promise a new believer your support as they are baptized, and you can’t sit under the proclaimed Word.  Christian worship is fundamentally communal.  This isn’t about being in a particularly holy place, but in the midst of a particular people – “the Kingdom of God is within you”.1  As many commentators have noted, the elemental prayer our savior gave us begins not with my but Our Father.  Even as we pray in private, we remember that we do so as part of our new family.2  This communal nature of worship is unsurprising considering the very nature of the God we Worship.  Within the essence of God, who is Holy Trinity, is a communion of persons, therefore worship is fellowship with God the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What do I get out of it?

As we worship, we receive.  Caution is needed though, because there is a tendency for us to approach worship asking, “What do I get out of it?”.  The danger with that question is that it reveals a consumer’s attitude.  The question could be rephrased as “Do I enjoy the music?”, “Do I like being with the people?”, or “Do I feel good about the sermon?” In these of questions we approach worship with self-diagnosed needs and our own benchmarks.  This is a shopper’s approach, browsing for an inspirational feeling, wisdom to fix a problem, or an assuaging of guilt.

photo by James Emery

photo by James Emery

To receive as a disciple is to trust that the Master knows better than us and to accept what he offers: commands that I would rather ignore, conviction of sin that I have been suppressing, and humbling assurance of forgiveness.  These are things we will miss if we basing the question on our musical taste or how funny the preacher is.  What we “get out of” worship is God’s Word spoken to us and his gracious promises confirmed in water, bread, and wine.  We receive welcome and fellowship within a community that God calls his own.  We receive nothing less that God himself.

 

 

 

 

1. Luke 17:21, The “you” is second person plural. Jesus is not saying that the Kingdom is and individualistic, internal reality.
2. Eliot is helpful here as well, “Choruses from the Rock” continue, “Even the anchorite who meditates alone,/ For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of GOD,/ Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate.

 

Captain Charles Nels Tanner (1932-2015)

CharlesNTannerI had the honor this week of officiating the funeral of a great patriot and great saint: Nels Tanner.  His greatness as a patriot is attested to by his distinguished service record and numerous decorations, including: two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, nine air medals and two Distinguished Service Medals. 

Greatness among followers of Jesus is shown in humility, and Nels’ humility was evident to anyone who knew him.  At his request, the funeral was a simple service at  Mt CarmelRear Admiral Robert Shumaker delivered a fitting eulogy, but other than the flag draped on his casket, there was no indication of his heroic service.  In pre-arrangements Nels wrote:

Even though I rate a full military service … I respectfully decline. I mean no disrespect to those who have honorably served their country in time of need. I simply want to emphasize by means of this service, that the witness of this sinner, having asked for and received forgiveness for his sins by his faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, is far more important than any other statement he or his community could possibly make.